Continental Airlines Cancellations Shutters Grow As Airports In New York

U.S. airlines, including United Continental Holdings, Inc. (UAL), Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), removed more than 8,000 flights, Hurricane Irene slammed the East Coast and closed airports in New York, the markets of the popular tourist nation.

American Airlines stopped at New York-area flights of 10 hours, local time, while United and Delta quickly cleared their schedules full. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, John F. closed Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and three small plants to get flights to noon local time that the city hopes that heavy rain and wind.

"We must ensure we give our customers and our employees time to go home" before the mass transit systems are closed, said Andrea Huguely, a U.S. spokesman.

The six largest U.S. airlines canceled at least 8037 flights from today until August 29 due to the storm. Another 332 have been cleaned earlier this week that the hurricane was approaching. New York officials had suspended trains, buses and subways at noon today, making it more difficult for workers and passengers to arrive at airports. Evacuations were ordered by the lower areas.

Delta and United are the biggest airlines in the New York market, while American operates two domestic and international hubs in the city.

International Flights

Air France grounded 16 flights to New York and Washington today and 14 flights tomorrow, said Herve Erschler, a spokesman. British Airways canceled 15 flights today and 21 tomorrow from New York and other northeastern U.S. cities, while Virgin Atlantic scrubbed 10, according to their websites. Deutsche Lufthansa AG canceled 14 flights to and from New York airports today, and 22 tomorrow at New York, Boston and Philadelphia, said Boris Ogursky, a spokesman.

Philadelphia’s airport will close at 6 p.m. today, according to data tracker FlightAware.com.

US Airways Group Inc. (LCC) canceled 1,166 flights, including 256 today and 910 tomorrow, Andrew Christie, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. The scrubbed flights primarily are in the Washington area starting tonight and in New York, Philadelphia and Boston tomorrow.

“The number of cancellations may change as we are continuing to monitor the storm very closely,” Christie said.

United Continental scrubbed 2,300 flights today and tomorrow, and Delta is dropping 1,500 flights through Aug. 29. Delta stopped service at three Virginia airports today and won’t make flights tomorrow to New York, Philadelphia, Boston and four other smaller northeast cities, said Morgan Durrant, a spokesman.
JetBlue

JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU), the first major carrier to cancel weekend flights, is dropping 1,262 over the same period, said Mateo Lleras, a spokesman. The airline halted operations at its biggest base in Kennedy at 10 a.m. local time today and will do the same in Boston at 10 p.m., he said.

American, a unit of AMR Corp. (AMR), is grounding 1,103 flights and suspended service at Washington-area airports for about 24 hours starting at noon today, said Tim Smith, a spokesman.

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) will suspend service today in Norfolk, Virginia, and is scrapping 400 flights, in addition to 306 flights through Aug. 29 at its AirTran unit. The Dallas- based airline plans to suspend flights in Philadelphia starting at 2 p.m. local time today through tomorrow, and at LaGuardia and Newark all weekend.

Irene may cause $6.5 billion in overall economic losses, according to estimates by Kinetic Analysis Corp. A more easterly track and less intensity puts the company’s projected insured losses at $3.1 billion.
Busiest Market

The last storm of this magnitude to menace the Northeast was 1985’s Hurricane Gloria, which killed 11 people and caused $900 million in damage. Irene is on a similar track.

Like JetBlue, Delta has a hub at Kennedy, and United’s Continental Airlines flies from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty. Together with LaGuardia, the three airports form the busiest U.S. aviation market with almost 104 million passengers last year, according to Airports Council International.

Sandwiching that airspace is Philadelphia, where US Airways has a hub and Southwest is the second-biggest operator; Washington, home to United’s hub at Dulles airport and a US Airways base at Ronald Reagan National; and Boston, where JetBlue is the largest tenant.

Irene’s approach spurred carriers to begin letting fliers reschedule trips without penalty to and from storm-affected cities. Dropping fees for changing reservations helps airlines by getting passengers rebooked before any weather disruptions.

Aircraft are flying with record numbers of full seats, especially at the end of the U.S. summer vacation season, making it difficult for passengers on grounded flights to find new seats after the storm moves through. Continental Airlines Cancellations Shutters Grow As Airports In New York