Hundreds of thousands of airline passengers will be grounded this weekend as Hurricane Irene sweeps up the East Coast, past some of the nation’s busiest airports.
JetBlue Airways said Friday it was scrubbing about 880 flights between Saturday and Monday, most of them to and from hub airports in New York and Boston.
American Airlines canceled 32 flights on Friday, mostly in North Carolina and Virginia, and expected to halt flights in and out of Washington-area airports — about 150 flights a day — around noon Saturday. Southwest Airlines planned to stop flights to and from Norfolk, Va., beginning Saturday morning.
Irene is expected to make landfall around North Carolina on Saturday, move up the coast to New York on Sunday and then weaken as it plods through New England. It could strike major airports from Washington to Boston.
The JetBlue cancellations are likely just the tip of the iceberg. Other airlines said Friday they were waiting to be more certain about Irene’s path before announcing more cancelations.
Airlines waived rebooking fees for customers who wanted to delay their flights to more than two dozen cities on the East Coast. Details varied by airline, with some giving travelers more time to make their rescheduled flight. Travelers whose flights were canceled would be eligible for refunds.
George Hobica, founder of the travel website airfarewatchdog.com, said travelers who bought nonrefundable tickets should wait until the airline cancels the flight rather than taking the airlines’ offer to reschedule by a few days.
The problem with rebooking on the airlines’ terms, Hobica said, is that you’re unlikely to want to take the same trip a few days later.