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Hurricane Irma: Florida flight cancellations persist, will drag into weekend

Flights have resumed at most Florida airports, but the prospect of disruptions remained for air travelers Wednesday as airlines rebooted their schedules.

This photo, provided by Miami International Airport, shows passengers moving through the terminals as flights resumed there after Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Miami International Airport)

UPDATE: Hurricane Irma: 1,000 more Florida flights canceled through Saturday

ORIGINAL POST: Click link above for the newest update

Last Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 13

Flights have resumed at most Florida airports, but the prospect of delays and cancellations remained for air travelers Wednesday as airlines rebooted their schedules there. 

As of 3 p.m. ET, more than 1,000 flights had been canceled nationwide for Wednesday and another 485 for Thursday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Nearly all of those came on flights to or from one of four airports: Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. 

Even looking ahead to Friday, more than 230 U.S. flights had already been canceled – mostly in Miami – as of Wednesday afternoon. 

FLIGHT TRACKER: Is your flight on time?

The ongoing cancellations underscored the challenge awaiting both airlines and airports as they tried to resume normal schedules in Florida. 

For airports, in addition to addressing damage that may have been caused by Irma, operations could only resume once personnel had returned. Many Floridians evacuated ahead of Irma, meaning many workers first had to return to the area before they could take up their posts at the airport. That affected everything from airport retail outlets to staffing for TSA and United States Customs and Border Protection locations.

Airlines faced a similar scenario. Planes that were flown out of the state to avoid Irma’s wrath first had to be flown back in. That process began in earnest on Tuesday, though it was likely to take much of the week for schedules to ramp up. Crews also had to be flown back in so they could be positioned to staff outbound flights. 

Another complicated staffing challenge for airlines was the ability to overnight crews in areas where many hotels remained closed or full. In Miami, that's affected the restart of some long-haul flights for American, according to spokesman Ross Feinstein. Crews arriving on a 9-hour flight from South America, for example, would need to spend the night in Miami before working another flight. Finding space for those crews this week has been complicated given the scarcity of hotel rooms. 

Also in Miami, American said it helped fly in TSA workers along with its own crews as part of an effort to help get operations up and running again at that airport, a major hub for the carrier. 

For now, most Florida airports were advising customers not to come unless they had confirmed the status of their flights in advance. 

In addition, all U.S. carriers had enacted some sort of flexible rebooking policy to allow fliers ticketed to Florida to change their plans without incurring change fees or – in most cases – additional costs. 

Destroyed trailers wait to be cleaned up at the Sunshine Key RV Resort where residents are still not allowed on Sept. 16, 2017 in Marathon, Florida. Many places in the Keys still lack water, electricity or mobile phone service and residents are still not permitted to go further south than Islamorada. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma.   Angel Valentin, Getty Images

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A man looks out at the ocean from The Southernmost Point marker in Key West on Sept. 16, 2017 in Key West, Florida. Many places in the Keys still lack water, electricity or mobile phone service and residents are still not permitted to go further south than Islamorada.  Angel Valentin, Getty Images

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Tim Thompson, Minister of the Marathon Church of Christ, clears debris in front of the house he rents next to his church after arriving from Homestead where he and his wife Kathy evacuated to before Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sept. 16, 2017 in Marathon, Florida. Many places in the Keys still lack water, electricity or mobile phone service and residents are still not permitted to go further south than Islamorada.   Angel Valentin, Getty Images

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The congregation of St. Peter Catholic Church lead by Rev. Jets Medina holds a mass under a pavillion after their church was damaged by hurricane Irma on Sept. 17, 2017 in Big Pine Key, Florida.   Joe Raedle, Getty Images

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George Bueno and others in the congregation of St. Peter Catholic Church lead by Rev. Jets Medina pray during a mass held under a pavillion after their church was damaged by hurricane Irma on Sept. 17, 2017 in Big Pine Key, Florida.   Joe Raedle, Getty Images

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"You hungry?" Kaiden Carey, 8, asks his sister Kailana Carey, 3, while opening a meal ready to eat (MRE) for her at the Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Center in Fort Myers, Florida. The siblings also received hot meals. Kaiden says they came to the center because his family, who lives in Southward Village, has little food and no power as a result of Hurricane Irma. Society restaurant of Fort Myers provided the hot meals.   Kinfay Moroti, The New-Press-USA TODAY NETWORK

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Ryan O'Brien walks towards his devastated home on Big Pine Key as he tries to clean up after Hurricane Irma hit the Big Pine Key the area destroying most of the homes in the community.  Kelly Jordan, USA TODAY

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A Key Deer feeds among rubble on Big Pine Key after Hurricane Irma hit the area destroying most of the homes in the community.  Kelly Jordan, USA TODAY

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Darwin Trabacco spends time with his pet chicken, Frankie as he takes a break after cleaning up around his family home on Big Pine Key after Hurricane Irma hit the area destroying most of the homes in the community.   Kelly Jordan, USA TODAY

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Aerial view of Everglades City, Fl. six days after Hurricane Irma.  Nicole Raucheisen, Naples Daily News Via USA TODAY NETWORK

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Aerial view of Immokalee, Fl. six days after Hurricane Irma.  Nicole Raucheisen, Naples Daily News Via USA TODAY NETWORK

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