Hurricane Irma: More than 1,600 Florida flights already canceled

This image provided by the National Hurricane Center shows the projected track for Hurricane Irma as of Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

UPDATE: Hurricane Irma: 2,000+ Florida flights already canceled, more likely.

ORIGINAL POST: Click link above for the newest update.

Updated: 5:15 p.M. On Thursday, Sept. 7.

Airlines have started to wind down some of their Florida operations as Hurricane Irma tracked closer to several of the state’s busiest airports. Already, hundreds of flights have been canceled in Florida for Friday as airlines preemptively canceled flights in anticipation of Irma.

As of 4:30 p.M. ET, more than 1,680 flights to or from Florida have been canceled because of Irma, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. When counting cancellations in the Caribbean since Sept. 1, the number of Irma-related cancellations jumps to 4,000.

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TODAY IN THE SKY: Airline change-fee waivers now extend north into South Carolina.

“We expect these numbers to rise considerably as airlines finalize their plans and then assess the impact on how quickly they can recover,” FlightAware added in a Thursday afternoon flight update.

Already, American Airlines said it will suspend all flights at its bustling Miami hub starting Friday afternoon. The airline’s last flight there will be a 3:49 p.M. Departure. And Orlando main international airport announced late Thursday it would suspend all flights there starting at 5 p.M. On Saturday.

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Further disruptions at those and other Florida airports if Irma’s track remains as forecast.

A number of airports — including some of the USA’s busiest — could be forced halt operations for at least a full day if Irma’s track holds. Travelers to the region should brace for the possibility of severe disruptions. The Key West airport already halted flights Wednesday evening.

Hundreds of flights had already been preemptively canceled at both Miami and Fort Lauderdale into Saturday. Cancellations started to tick up at other Florida airports, including West Palm Beach and Fort Myers. Cancellations from Orlando’s planned flight suspension have not yet be included in tallies, but will add hundreds of more cancellations to the mix once they’re counted.

Airlines were waiving change fees for most fliers still holding tickets to or from the state. Several carriers also moved to cap fares as low as $99 one way on the few flights out of Florida that still had seats available.

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American also planned to suspend flights at other Florida airports in addition to Miami, saying that service to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach would end Friday.

“We continue to evaluate operations at other Florida airports, including Sarasota and Tampa, and will make adjustments as necessary,” American added.

A number of airlines operate major hubs or bases in South Florida. Aside from American’s hub in Miami, four airlines — JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and Allegiant — all operate large bases in Fort Lauderdale. JetBlue also counts Orlando as one of its focus cities.

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JetBlue said it had canceled nearly 900 flights to or from Florida through Monday.

“We are working to provide additional flights where we can and communicating directly with impacted customers,” spokesman Doug McGraw said in a statement.

Delta, in a statement updating its operation plan, said it expects the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach airports “to close Friday night. Delta will cancel its operation Saturday and likely Sunday, pending updates from the airport authority.”.

Budget carrier Spirit echoed those expectations, saying on its website that “closures are still to be determined, but flights on Saturday (Sept. 9) and Sunday (Sept. 10) will likely cancel.” Spirit updated cancellation decisions would likely be made late Thursday or on Friday.

FlightAware reports that Southwest will cancel all flights from Friday afternoon through Sunday at four Florida airports: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

In the Caribbean, Irma has already grounded flights across numerous islands in the northern Caribbean. Among those affected by Irma on Wednesday and Thursday were airports in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where severe cancellations were reported across the islands – including at the busy international airport in San Juan.

TODAY IN THE SKY: Hurricane Irma: Heavy damage to one of the world’s most famous airports.

Irma’s travel impact will be long-lasting elsewhere in the region.

For example, early images from the Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Martin showed extensive damage, raising the possibility that the airport’s closure could by measured not by days, but by weeks. Similar destruction was being reported on Barbuda and other islands in the northern Caribbean.

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Next in the Irma’s path was the Bahamas, where most flights have already been grounded at airports across the island nation. Flights in the region – including in the Dominican Republic, western Cuba, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos – were likely to be severely affected or canceled altogether as Irma tracked through the area.

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