Hundreds of flights canceled as Hurricane Irene nears East Coast
With Hurricane Irene approaching the East Coast, airlines have canceled nearly 1,000 flights and have begun to relocate aircraft away from the path of the storm.
Airline officials said they may be forced to cancel more flights in the next few days as they continue to evaluate the direction and strength of the storm.
"We don't want to pull the trigger on these flights too quickly," said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines.
Because the East Coast is home to the nation's busiest airspace, the effect of the cancellations is expected to send ripples through the country's air travel system.
JetBlue, which operates major hubs at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Logan International Airport in Boston, announced the cancellation of 891 flights from its East Coast airports on Sunday and Monday. The airline also was evaluating its flight plans for Saturday, waiting to determine the storm's path.
American Airlines officials said the air carrier had already canceled 32 flights from airports in North Carolina and Virginia and planned to consider further cancellations at airports farther up the coast.
Southwest Airlines announced plans to temporarily suspend service to and from Norfolk International Airport in Virginia on Saturday, with service resuming once conditions improve. The airline did not say how many flights it was suspending.
Airline officials have been tracking the storm for days and are evaluating on an hourly basis how many flights they can operate safely and how many planes they must relocate to reroute passengers.
"Starting today, they are adjusting schedules based on the forecast," said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Air Transport Assn., the trade group for the nation's largest airlines.
-- Hugo Martin
Photo: Hurricane Irene, seen from space. Credit: Ron Garan / NASA