As Irene Makes Way Up East Coast
By Mary Schlangenstein and Mary Jane Credeur – Aug 27, 2011
U.S. carriers including United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) and Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) scrubbed more than 9,500 flights as Hurricane Irene churned up the East Coast and shuttered airports in New York, the nation’s busiest travel market.
American Airlines halted New York City-area flights as of 10 a.m. local time, while United and Delta earlier scrubbed their full schedules. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and three smaller facilities to arriving flights as of noon local time as the city awaited heavy rain and wind.
“We need to make sure that we give our customers and our employees ample time to get home” before mass transit systems are closed, said Andrea Huguely, an American spokeswoman.
Philadelphia’s airport remains open, although airlines have reduced arrivals and departures throughout the day and none are scheduled for tomorrow, said Victoria Lupica, an airport spokeswoman. The airport terminals will remain open for passengers who may be stuck at the facility.
The six biggest U.S. airlines canceled at least 9,570 flights today through Aug. 29 because of the storm. Another 334 were scrubbed earlier in the week as the hurricane approached. New York officials suspended train, bus and subway service at noon today, making it harder for workers and passengers to reach airports. More than 370,000 people were ordered to evacuate low- lying areas.
Delta and United are the biggest airlines in the New York market, while American operates both domestic and international hubs from the city.
International carriers, including Air France, British Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and Aer Lingus, grounded 128 flights to and from the U.S. Northeast today and tomorrow, according to spokesmen and carrier websites.
US Airways Group Inc. (LCC) canceled 2,333 flights through Aug. 29, including 1,655 tomorrow, said Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman. The airline scrubbed its full schedules in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston tomorrow.
“We’re stressing for customers flying on US Airways not to show up at those airports because there won’t be any flights,” Lehmacher said in an interview. “Our focus is not only on keeping our employees safe, but also our customers.”
United Continental scrubbed 2,300 flights today and tomorrow, and Delta is dropping 1,505 flights through Aug. 29. Delta stopped service at three Virginia airports today and won’t make flights tomorrow to New York, Philadelphia, Boston and four other smaller northeast cities, said Morgan Durrant, a spokesman.
JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU), the first major carrier to cancel weekend flights, is dropping 1,272 over the same period, said Mateo Lleras, a spokesman. The airline halted operations at its biggest base in Kennedy and will do the same in Boston at 10 p.m., he said.
American, a unit of AMR Corp. (AMR), is grounding 1,103 flights and suspended service at Washington-area airports for about 24 hours starting at noon today, said Tim Smith, a spokesman.
Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) suspended service today in Norfolk, Virginia, and scrapped 740 flights, in addition to 322 flights at its AirTran unit, through Aug. 29. Southwest suspended flights in Philadelphia starting at 2 p.m. local time today through tomorrow, and at LaGuardia and Newark all weekend.
Irene may cause $6.5 billion in overall economic losses, according to estimates by Kinetic Analysis Corp. A more easterly track and less intensity puts the company’s projected insured losses at $3.1 billion.
The last storm of this magnitude to menace the Northeast was 1985’s Hurricane Gloria, which killed 11 people and caused $900 million in damage. Irene is on a similar track.
Like JetBlue, Delta has a hub at Kennedy, and United’s Continental Airlines flies from New Jersey‘s Newark Liberty. Together with LaGuardia, the three airports form the busiest U.S. aviation market with almost 104 million passengers last year, according to Airports Council International.
Sandwiching that airspace is Philadelphia, where US Airways has a hub and Southwest is the second-biggest operator; Washington, home to United’s hub at Dulles airport and a US Airways base at Ronald Reagan National; and Boston, where JetBlue is the largest tenant.
To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s; Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur
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