Airlines scrap over 2,000 US flights as Hurricane Ian set to make landfall

Airlines canceled over 2,000 U.S. flights on Tuesday and Wednesday and some Florida airports halted operations as they braced for impact from Hurricane Ian, which was set to make landfall in the state.

Airlines scrap over 2,000 US flights as Hurricane Ian set to make landfall
Local residents fill sandbags, as Hurricane Ian spun toward the state carrying high winds, torrential rains and a powerful storm surge, at Ben T. Davis Beach in Tampa, Florida, U.S., September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

Sept 27 (Reuters) - Airlines canceled over 2,000 U.S. flights on Tuesday and Wednesday and some Florida airports halted operations as they braced for impact from Hurricane Ian, which was set to make landfall in the state.

Airlines had scrapped 367 flights on Tuesday and 1,748 on Wednesday across the United States, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.com.

About 1,800 flights within, into, or out of the United States were delayed on Tuesday, Flightaware.com data showed.

Hurricane Ian entered the U.S. Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and is forecast to become a dangerous category 4 storm over the warm waters of the Gulf, according to National Hurricane Center forecaster Eric Blake.

It is expected to bring hurricane-force winds of up to 130 mph (209 kph) and as much as 2 feet (0.6 meters) of rain to the Tampa area starting early on Wednesday through Thursday evening.

Both Tampa and St. Pete-Clearwater airports in southwest Florida halted operations on Tuesday, while the Sarasota Bradenton Airport will suspend operations at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT) and Orlando Airport will cease operations at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Walt Disney said on Tuesday it would close its Orlando theme parks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Even Florida airports not closing were experiencing major impacts. Airlines canceled about 40% of flights at Miami International Airport on Wednesday.

Florida is a major part of U.S. aviation and some airlines like JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines typically expect 40% or more of their daily flights to touch a Florida airport.

Through Tuesday afternoon, JetBlue has canceled 24% of its U.S. flights on Wednesday, while Southwest has canceled 9%.

Southwest suspended operations on Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, and is suspending operations at some Florida airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was "closely monitoring" Hurricane Ian and its path.

Major U.S. carriers also halted some operations.

American Airlines issued a travel alert for 20 airports in the western Caribbean and Florida waiving change fees for tickets booked by Sept. 23.

Reporting by Kannaki Deka in Bengaluru and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Josie Kao