NEW YORK (AP) – Airlines hurried to fly passengers and planes out of the Northeast Sunday as Hurricane Sandy moved up the coast. The massive storm threatens to bring a near halt to air travel for two days in a key region for both domestic and international flights.
On Sunday, the airlines moved planes away from the East Coast to avoid damage, and added flights out of Washington, D.C., and New York City area airports.
Crowds filled the American Airlines terminal midday at New York’s LaGuardia, with families sitting on the floor waiting for a flight out – any flight out. A few travelers were sitting at a bar having a beer, watching football. Others nervously paced before flight information boards showing canceled flights, hoping their flight wouldn’t be added to that list. It was almost double the normal crowd. Travelers were calm, but anxious.
Cancellations are starting to mount. According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, 1,200 Sunday flights have been canceled as of mid-afternoon. Approximately two-thirds of those were flights into East Coast airports. At Newark International Airport, a hub for United Airlines, there were nearly 300 total cancellations.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs five airports in the area, said it expects all carriers to cease operations Sunday night. It advised passengers to check with their carriers before heading to the airport.
For Monday, when Sandy is expected to make landfall, nearly 4,600 flights have already been canceled, about 2,300 of those at Newark, and New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Another 650 have been scrapped at Philadelphia International, according to FlightAware.
Another 640 flights have been canceled for Tuesday, and FlightAware expects that number to grow.
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 beginning Sunday evening with plans to resume Tuesday as conditions permit.
JetBlue Airways Corp., which flies out of JFK, said it has canceled more than 1,000 flights from Sunday through Wednesday morning.
American Airlines and American Eagle canceled 140 flights Sunday and canceled another 1,431 flights Monday through Wednesday due to Hurricane Sandy, the company said.
US Airways said it had suspended all operations at the three New York airports Sunday evening and Monday and at Philadelphia and Washington on Monday.
The disruptions also impact international carriers. Air France has canceled four Monday flights into JFK and two departures. Lufthansa canceled three flights to the Northeast and one flight out of Newark.
Sandy, a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph as of Sunday afternoon, was blamed for 65 deaths in the Caribbean before it began churning up the Eastern Seaboard. It was expected to hook left toward the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday, most likely in New Jersey, colliding with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic. Experts say the rare hybrid storm that results will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.