Hurricane Sandy disrupted air travel across the U.S., grounding more than 9,400 flights today and tomorrow as the storm barreled toward the northeast and forced the region’s major airports to suspend operations.
Some airlines began extending cancellations through Oct. 31 as the storm’s track became clearer. Scrubbed flights totaled more than 6,800 today and almost 2,600 tomorrow, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based industry data provider.
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United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines cut their schedules as carriers halted virtually all service to New York, Washington and Philadelphia. New York’s three airports make up the nation’s busiest air-travel market, so the upheaval rippled throughout the U.S. and curbed international service as well.
“It’s mostly going to affect business travelers,” Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of website FareCompare, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “If this was happening during Thanksgiving week, it would just be a nightmare.”
Cancellations will curb fourth-quarter earnings, said Robert Mann, president of aviation consultant R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, New York. Even so, the airlines may be able to retain most revenue as passengers reschedule travel.
“You’ve got essentially a three-day period where you’re canceling thousands of flights a day and trying to re- accommodate passengers,” Mann said.
American and regional partner American Eagle suspended operations from 10 p.m. yesterday until midday Oct. 31 at New York’s three large airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty, along with Reagan and Dulles airports in Washington; Baltimore; Norfolk, Virginia; Philadelphia; and Hartford, Connecticut.
American and Eagle canceled 140 flights to and from those nine airports yesterday and an additional 1,431 from today through Oct. 31.
“It is also possible that the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy may force some additional delays and cancellations of scheduled flights beyond Wednesday,” American said in a statement.
Southwest Airlines Co. suspended service today at 12 airports, including LaGuardia, Newark, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington Dulles and Reagan. US Airways Group Inc. scrubbed flights at Philadelphia, Washington Reagan and the three major New York-area airports, and canceled flights today between Europe and Philadelphia.
Delta Air Lines Inc. has grounded 2,100 flights from yesterday through tomorrow morning.
Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, said customers would be offered alternative flights at no additional cost. Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it grounded 13 flights, including trips to the U.S. from Munich and Dusseldorf.
United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s biggest package delivery company, suspended air service to New York-area airports and several others along the East Coast today, said Susan Rosenberg, a spokeswoman. The Atlanta-based company sent European flights bound for East Coast airports to its main air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, she said.
Package delivery service is limited today in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and UPS isn’t doing pickups or deliveries in certain parts of New Jersey, eastern Maryland, Delaware and other cities in Sandy’s path, Rosenberg said.
Sandy packed maximum sustained winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour at 8 a.m. New York time, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm’s eye was about 310 miles south-southeast of New York, moving at 20 mph. Sandy isn’t expected to weaken before landfall at Cape May, New Jersey.
A convergence of the hurricane with two other storm systems will create a phenomenon the National Weather Service dubbed a “Frankenstorm,” affecting about 60 million people in a densely populated region of the U.S.
Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, canceled service in the busy Northeast corridor starting at 7 p.m. New York time yesterday through today, according to a statement on its website. The rail carrier said it hasn’t yet determined when service will be restored.
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