UPDATE: Flight cancellations mount as Irma pushes north from Florida

2017-09-12 08:27
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AFP

(AFP)

Airports in Florida remain closed and flight cancellations moved north along with tropical storm Irma.

According to tracking service FlightAware, more than 4 200 US flights scheduled for Monday, 11 September, were cancelled by mid-afternoon and more than 9 000 flights were cancelled since Saturday, 9 September.

ALSO SEE: SAA puts contingency plan in place for Irma-affected passengers

South African Airways (SAA) also confirmed it will waive re-booking fees to all customers whose flights are affected by Hurricane Irma. SAA has also offered re-booking assistance to any customers that have booked SAA flights to Caribbean and Florida airports via New York and Washington.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali says the free assistance will be offered to those travelling until Tuesday, 12 September, and re-bookings can only be made for flights up to 19 September 2017.

SEE: UPDATE: Thousands affected by Irma as tourism is hit hard

Irma weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm and did not cause as much damage in Florida as some forecasters had feared. Airline stocks rose, led by American Airlines, which has a huge base in Miami.

American Airlines had planned to restart in Miami on Monday but pushed service back until Tuesday. Spokesman Ross Feinstein says the airline had to wait for approval to fly from federal aviation officials, and until security screeners and airport vendors could return to work.

Damage to airports

Terminal buildings at Miami International Airport suffered significant water damage, and ceiling tiles at gate areas fell down throughout the airport, says spokesman Greg Chin.

At nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, there were some leaks in terminal roofs and trees were downed in the employee parking lot, but overall damage was minimal, according to Meyer. He says water on the runways was receding.

Airlines were expected to fly empty planes to the Fort Lauderdale airport later Monday to operate departing flights Tuesday morning, Meyer says.

Miami International Airport hopes to open on Tuesday with limited service.

Disruptions spread beyond Florida

Delta Airlines cancelled 900 flights on Monday, including many at its Atlanta hub because of high winds, while Southwest cancelled Atlanta schedule flights in early afternoon on Monday. American Airlines also scrapped 300 flights in Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the wind.

United Parcel Service Company and FedEx Corpration couldn't make flights into Miami, where each has a major sorting facility, and it was unclear when deliveries would resume, partly because so many customers evacuated to avoid the storm.

"Even if we're able to make deliveries, can customers receive them?" asks UPS spokesman Matthew O'Connor.

SEE: Miami Airport calls out Trump official for sharing fake news

American Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways have a greater percentage of flights in Florida and the Caribbean, according to a Raymond James analyst.

With Florida's biggest airports expected to reopen on Tuesday, airlines won't lose as much money on lost flights — nothing like the $150 million hit that United suffered last month from Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

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