U.S. airlines cancel flights, hotels book up before hurricane

NEW YORK, Mon Oct 29, 2012 –  Hurricane Sandy will likely cause financial headaches for U.S. airlines that canceled more than 7,000 flights to and from the Northeast corridor on Sunday.

Hotels in the region were busy handling cancellations for guests who could not get to destinations in the Northeast, extending stays for guests who could not leave town, and booking rooms for people who left their homes.

Airlines started cancelling flights in the U.S. Northeast region Sunday evening as cities from Washington D.C. to Boston braced for floods and high winds from the hurricane, which was expected to make landfall in the next few days.

According to Flightaware.com, more than 7,100 flights had been canceled by 9 p.m. on Sunday due to Sandy. Airlines waived fees for people who have to change travel plans because of the grounded flights.

In New York City, the timing of flight cancellations like US Airways, was determined by the city’s decision to start shutting down its mass transit systems at 7 p.m. as passengers would have no way to get to and from the airport.

U.S. Airways said it would likely have to cancel close to 2,000 flights because of the storm, starting at 7 p.m. Sunday. The airline said it expects to resume flights on Tuesday, but noted that flooding and the storm’s duration could cause additional delays.

The airline also said it would move planes from the hurricane zone to try to avoid damage. Repositioning those planes after the weather clears could cause additional delays.

Transportation consultant George Hamlin estimated that Sandy could cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

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