Airlines moved Sunday to ensure that neither their aircraft nor their passengers would be stuck in the path of Hurricane Sandy.
United, American and US Airways each cancelled hundreds of flights arriving or departing Northeast airports from Sunday through Wednesday. United cancelled 3,700 flights, American cancelled 1,571 and US Airways cancelled 483, with more expected.
Most of the cancellations involved airports in the New York metropolitan area as well as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington.
United’s cancellations represent about of its schedule during the four-day period. The carrier said the cancellations began Sunday. On Monday, United will not operate any flights at Newark International, New York La Guardia, New York Kennedy, Washington Dulles, Washington National or Baltimore-Washington International. Operations are scheduled to begin to resume on Tuesday afternoon.
US Airways will not operate any flights at Philadelphia or Washington National on Monday.
“Our operations team has been working since Friday on scenarios that would accommodate customers flying to and from the East Coast this weekend, while also moving our airplanes out of Sandy’s way to avoid having them stuck in airports in Sandy’s path,” United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said on Sunday afternoon.
”While cancellations are never convenient, we hope customers understand that we are focused first and foremost on operating safely,” Johnson said. “We are also striving to minimize the impact on travelers booked on flights outside the East Coast.”
At US Airways, the cancellations include 83 US Airways Express flights on Sunday and about 450 more on Monday and Tuesday. The carrier expects more cancellations later today. Included are flights from the West Coast that would land in Philadelphia on Monday as well as westbound and eastbound trans-Atlantic flights to and from Philadelphia on Monday.
American said it cancelled 140 flights Sunday and 1,431 more from Monday through Wednesday. “The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy may force some additional delays and cancellations of scheduled flights to the region,” the carrier said.
Airlines encourage passengers to check their web sites for up-to-date flight information before heading for the airport.
Every major airline has already offered passengers the chance to rebook flights in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy without paying change fees. In the very immediate future, those carriers are likely to follow the lead of United and US Airways in cancelling flights scheduled for Sunday through Wednesday. It is not unlikely that some impacted airports will close when storm conditions are at their worst.
In many cases, carriers can be expected to cancel flights that would arrive in New York and other affected areas late in the day on Sunday, and to try to move aircraft out of the affected areas before the storm hits.