New York: More than 1,300 flights were cancelled on September 13-14 in advance of Hurricane Florence's arrival in the Carolinas, and operations at airports along the coast have been suspended as hurricane plowed into the Carolinas and lumbered slowly inland on Friday.
Tropical Storm Florence may no longer be a hurricane, but that doesn’t reduce the danger from the slow moving storm. Category 2 storm with tropical-storm-force winds had started lashing North Carolina's coast by mid-day on September 13.
Carriers including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines have all posted information for travellers online about fee-free changes to affected itineraries this week.
Many have started waving their flight change fees ahead of the storm to enable as many people to leave the area as possible, and as to assist those who may have otherwise been planning to fly into the region this week.
Operations will stop in airports along the Carolina coast ahead of landfall until the storm moves inland. Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham and Greensboro airports in North Carolina as well as Richmond and Norfolk in Virginia are among the biggest inland airports looking at air traffic disruptions due to Florence. Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is one of the busiest hubs for American Airlines, and is most likely to be most impacted by the storm, given current trajectories.
Runways at South Carolina's Charleston International Airport closed late September 12 night and may not reopen until early September 15 morning, according to an update on the airport's web site.
Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina has also suspended commercial operations. Services and flights have been suspended on September 13-14 at Wilmington International Airport on North Carolina's coast.
Hundreds of miles inland, Charlotte Douglas International Airport already has more than 300 flight cancellations, according to FlightAware. Raleigh-Durham International Airport had a similar number of cancellations for those two days.
Boeing evacuated several new 787-10 Dreamliner jets from its factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, to protect them from the storm. Concern was high enough for the expensive jets that the plane manufacturer flew them all the way across the US to its main facility outside Seattle, Washington.
It is currently premature to outline the full impacts that this storm and its ensuing damage will have on air travel. As the Federal Aviation Administration writes, “Once Hurricane Florence makes ground fall, airports may be listed as 'open' but flooding on local roadways may limit access to airports for passengers, as well as the employees who work for the airlines or at the airport. As a result, every aspect of your trip to the airport, including parking, checking in, getting through security and boarding may take longer than usual.”