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Hurricane Irene: Airlines cancel nearly 2,500 flights

August 26, 2011 |  2:10 pm


With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, airlines have canceled nearly 2,500 flights and are warning that several major airports could shut down entirely as early as Sunday.

Because the East Coast is home to the busiest airspace in the country, the cancellations are expected to cause problems at airports throughout the nation, stranding travelers returning from summer vacations.

Based on the projected path of the storm, the impact will be felt at airports from South Carolina to Massachusetts.

Several airline officials predicted that most of the cancellations will take place Sunday, when the storm reaches the nation's busiest airports in New York and Washington, D.C.

"Sunday will be the worst day," said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines, which plans to cancel 265 flights starting Saturday, primarily in Washington, New York, Virginia and North Carolina.

Delta Air Lines, the nation's largest carrier, announced plans to cancel about 1,300 flights from Saturday to Monday. The canceled flights represent nearly 8% of the airline's total operations for that period, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said.

JetBlue Airways said it plans to cancel 891 flights at airports from North Carolina to Maine.

Several airlines, including Southwest, Delta, United, American and JetBlue, have offered to waive the fees that passengers normally are charged to change reservations for flights over the weekend.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Hurricane Irene as shown from a satellite photo. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration