Airlines have cancelled nearly 9,000 flights for today and tomorrow with more cancellations expected as Hurricane Sandy barrels up the Atlantic coast of the United States.

The massive storm threatens to bring a near halt to air travel for at least two days in a key region for both domestic and international flights.

Flight-tracking service FlightAware reported cancellations by major carriers including American Airlines, United and Delta into and out of three area airports in New York, the nation’s busiest airspace.

Tens of thousands of stranded passengers are now waiting out the storm across the world, in travel hubs including London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Airports in the metropolitan New York City area are open, but air carriers are not operating.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said today that travelers should not even try to go to Kennedy, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and Stewart airports.
Both Philadelphia International Airport and Newark International Airport, a hub for United Airlines, each had more than 1,300 cancellations for last night and 6,814 cancelled as of 9am on Monday.
Businessman Alan Shrem was trying to return home to Boca Raton, Florida this morning, but his Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to New York’s Kennedy airport was canceled.

He was told he could be stuck in Hong Kong for nearly a week because the next available seat was November 4. He was put on a waiting list for seats that could become available earlier.

‘They just say: Yeah, it’s a pretty big waiting list,”‘ said Shrem, throwing up his hands. In the meantime, he will have to pay $400 a night to stay at a nearby hotel. The airline will not pay for accommodation for stranded passengers if delays are weather related.

Air travel in the Northeast began having problems last night, when passengers were reporting delays of hours at airline call centers.

Eileen Merberg, 50, was booked on a United flight from her home in Rochester, N.Y. to New Orleans, connecting at Washington D.C.’s Dulles airport.

She received an email saying the Washington flight was canceled. United rebooked her first on a flight through Newark and, when that flight was also canceled, on another flight through Chicago.

By that point, she had told the higher education conference that she was scheduled to speak at that she would not be coming. She tried to cancel her flight over the phone but waiting times were so long she could not get through.

FlightAware said it expects the number of flight cancellations to ‘rise considerably.’

A spokesman for United Airlines parent United Continental Holdings Inc. said the carrier has suspended an unspecified number of flights to New York and Washington-area airports from last night, with plans to resume on Tuesday if conditions permit.

JetBlue Airways Corp., which flies out of JFK, said it has canceled more than 1,000 flights from Sunday through Wednesday morning.

While other airlines will most likely follow United in paring down their confirmed flight schedules, carriers can point to last year’s Hurricane Irene as a precedent of likely action they will take.

During a four-day period in August 2011, as Irene approached the Eastern Seaboard, 14,000 flights were halted as the hurricane traveled over major hubs such as Philadelphia, Newark and JFK airports.

Every major airline in the U.S. has at one hub or ‘center city’ and some, such as United (Newark and Washington Dulles) and US Airways (Philadelphia and Washington National), have two.

Even a slight disruption to one of these airports would affect thousands of flights and tens of thousands of passengers.

If the flight cancellations continue, it could lead to havoc which would create gridlock in the U.S. aviation system and create a backlog of stranded passengers.

Source: The Daily Mail


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