Hurricane Sandy Grounds Thousands Of Flights - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Hurricane Sandy Grounds Thousands Of Flights

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hurricane Sandy grounded thousands of flights in the U.S. northeast Monday and upended travel plans across the globe, stranding passengers worldwide and locally.

The massive storm threatens to bring a near halt to air travel for at least two days in a key region for both domestic and international flights.

Major carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta canceled all flights into and out of three area airports in New York, the nation's busiest airspace. According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, nearly 10,000 flights had been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm.

Delays rippled across the U.S., affecting travelers in cities such as San Francisco to Chicago, and disruptions spread to Europe and Asia, where airlines canceled or delayed flights to New York and Washington from cities that are major travel hubs including Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

About one-quarter of all U.S. flights travel in or out of New York airports each day. So cancellations here can dramatically impact travel in other cities.

In Nashville, more than 20 flights have already been canceled.

Airport officials stressed anyone flying should check their flight in advance Monday, so passengers are not stranded.

It's too late from some passengers already stranded at Nashville International since Sunday, and they're now giving up hope of getting back home to the East Coast until Sandy passes.

"My plan last night was to get a rent-a-car, I just walked up from the Starbucks couch and find a hotel," said Annette Caranto.

Because so many airlines store planes in the East, passengers as far away as Los Angeles or Seattle could feel the impact.

Here's what you can do if your flight is canceled:

  • If your flight is canceled due to the storm, don't go to the airport.
  • To avoid getting stranded, check your flight's status early the day you're flying, and again right before you head to the airport. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is encouraging travelers to make sure their flight will be departing before heading to Kennedy, LaGuardia or Newark International airports.
  • If you're already at the airport when your flight is canceled, put your legs and fingers to work. Walk over to customer service. While there, dial the customer service number. Odds are you'll get help over the phone before reaching the front of the line. Still, in the case of Sandy, the best you might do is a cot, like those the Port Authority is promising to supply to stranded travelers.
  • You can try asking for assistance via Twitter. Most airlines task employees with monitoring their Twitter feed. However, for this storm JetBlue has requested that people in need of help call the airline. Other airlines could do the same.

 There are also a couple of financial basics to be aware of.

The airlines have waived change fees, typically $150, for flights delayed or canceled due to the storm. But keep in mind that airlines usually only waive this fee once. Be certain you want to change your itinerary before you lock it in. Otherwise, you'll be out $150 if you have to make a second change. You also might pay more for a difference in the flight's price

If you cancel your booking altogether, the airline might offer you a voucher for a future flight. But you can ask for cash instead.

Businessman Alan Shrem was trying to return home to Boca Raton, Fla. His Monday morning Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to New York's Kennedy airport was canceled.

He learned he could be stuck in Hong Kong for nearly a week because the next available seat was Nov. 4. He was put on a waiting list for seats that could become available earlier.

"They just say: Yeah, it's a pretty big waiting list," said Shrem, throwing up his hands. In the meantime, he'll have to fork out $400 a night to continue staying at a nearby hotel. The airline won't pay for accommodation for stranded passengers if delays are weather related.

Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is about 310 miles (505 kilometers) southeast of New York City, and the center of the storm is expected to be near the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday night. The National Hurricane Center said early Monday that the storm has top sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), with higher gusts. Sandy is on track to collide with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.

Airports in the metropolitan New York City area are open, but air carriers are not operating.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday that travelers shouldn't even try to go to Kennedy, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and Stewart airports

Air travel in the Northeast started getting complicated on Sunday, when passengers were reporting multi-hour wait times at airline call centers.

Eileen Merberg, 50, was booked on a United flight from her home in Rochester, N.Y. to New Orleans, connecting at Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport.

She received an email saying the Washington flight was canceled. United rebooked her first on a flight through Newark and, when that flight was also canceled, on another flight through Chicago.

By that point, she already had told the higher education conference that she was scheduled to speak at that she wouldn't be coming. She tried to cancel her flight over the phone. After two lengthy waits - her cell phone battery ran out during the first one - she just hung up.

JetBlue Airways Corp. expects its cancellations from Sunday through Tuesday to total about 1,200. The airline has hubs at Kennedy airport and Boston's Logan. Rob Maruster, chief operating officer of JetBlue, hopes to resume New York flights on Wednesday morning. But he's worried about flooding of JFK's runways since they are all basically at sea level and near bodies of water.

Delta Air Lines Inc. has canceled 2,100 flights over the three days. American Airlines has scrapped 1,000 flights, including 260 on regional affiliate American Eagle.

International travelers would have to wait to get to the East Coast of the U.S. All flights from Paris to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington - a total of 14 - were canceled. Air France has canceled four into JFK and two departures.

Frankfurt airport canceled 12 flights, with German carrier Lufthansa scrapping three to the Northeast and one out of Newark. British Airways had to cancel all its flights to and from New York, Newark, Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia - a total of 20.

Eight flights out of Tokyo's Narita International Airport to New York, Newark and Washington were canceled Monday.

Hong Kong's Cathay canceled its two daily flights to New York for Monday and Tuesday and Air India said its daily flights to Newark and JFK had halted since Sunday.

South Korean flag carrier Korean Air delayed a flight scheduled to leave Incheon International Airport for JFK on Monday by 22 hours. Asiana Airlines delayed its JFK flight from Seoul by 26 hours.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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