Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Airlines Cancel Flights as Irma Advances: Category 5 storm has picked up speed and intensity as it nears Caribbean islands

The Wall Street Journal
By Susan Carey
Sept. 5, 2017 5:24 p.m. ET

Airlines are canceling flights in the Caribbean and offering waivers to passengers in Florida as Hurricane Irma picks up speed and intensity, disrupting air travel in the region for the second time in a month.

American Airlines Group Inc. said Tuesday that it had issued waivers to passengers at 27 airports and canceled flights for Wednesday and Thursday to the islands of St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Thomas and St. Croix. Waivers allow passengers to put off their trips for a time without incurring change fees or fare increases.

American, the top U.S. airline by traffic, also offered travelers the chance to move up or postpone travel to some larger cities in Florida, including its hub in Miami as well as Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Key West and Sarasota. It also scrubbed multiple flights scheduled for Wednesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Southwest Airlines Co. offered its passengers the chance to push their trips back as far as Sept. 11 to eight destinations, including Havana, Cuba, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Nassau, Bahamas as well as four airports in Florida. Delta Air Lines Inc. offered waivers at 10 Caribbean airports and JetBlue Airways Corp. at seven.

FlightAware.com, a flight tracking service, showed 34 outbound flights canceled as of Tuesday afternoon at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, the third-highest tally. The only airports faring worse were Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, both still mopping up in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The largest operators in Houston, United Continental Holdings Inc., at Bush and Southwest at Hobby, are building their schedules back up after both airports reopened Wednesday after being closed for four days.

Discounter Spirit Airlines Inc. estimated Tuesday that Harvey will cost it $8.5 million in lost revenue in the third quarter, due both to direct impact of cancellations and the lingering reduction in demand for travel to and from the area. Analysts expect far larger hits for United and Southwest, but they haven’t given financial guidance.

Spirit’s shares fell 4.5% on Tuesday, and Southwest and United traded 2% and 1.7% lower respectively. Delta shares also dropped 3.5% and JetBlue Airways Corp. shares by 3.3% after they separately lowered their third-quarter financial guidance.

Irma presents a fresh threat to the airlines’ business. The Category 5 storm could hit St. Kitts and Nevis by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Several small airline operators, including San Juan-based Seabourne Airlines, Winward Islands Airways on St. Maarten and U.S.-based Cape Air, based in Hyannis, Mass., also canceled many flights in the storm’s path on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.

Original article can be found here:  https://www.wsj.com

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