South Florida airports gird for ripple effects from Hurricane Idalia

Airlines and airports serving cities statewide braced for the arrival of Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday as major air carriers relocated planes and rebooked passengers, while South Florida aviation centers braced for ripple effects as the storm took dead aim for the Gulf Coast.

American Airlines, which maintains a major hub at Miami International Airport, issued travel alerts for 12 airports in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and is closely monitoring both Idalia as well as Hurricane Franklin, which is churning toward Bermuda in the western Atlantic. It also issued an alert for Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport.

The Texas-based carrier said it is allowing customers whose plans are affected by Idalia to rebook without change fees.

Southwest Airlines, one of the busiest at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel by email that it shut its operations at Tampa International on Tuesday and made arrangements to backstop passengers whose plans are being disrupted.

“As it stands now, with TPA closed, we’ve pulled down everything there through at least midday Wednesday,” said spokesman Chris Perry. “We successfully moved all overnight aircraft and crew out of TPA (Monday) night and were able to operate our final departures yesterday evening. We’ll consider further schedule modifications as needed.”

For customers, he said, the airline is maintaining “an active travel advisory to provide maximum flexibility for those traveling to, from, and through the Sunshine State, as well as neighboring areas in Idalia’s path.”

He added that Southwest is “allowing customers booked from TPA and Sarasota to re-accommodate themselves from other airports we serve in Florida should they choose to do.”

Delta Air Lines canceled a small number of flights for Tuesday and Wednesday at Fort Myers, Sarasota and Tallahassee, the latter of which includes Thursday. After the storm passes, service resumptions will depend on local airport and infrastructure conditions, with customer and worker safety the prime consideration.

“Delta teams in our operations and customer center, including our in-house team of meteorologists, continue to monitor forecasts and potential impact to our people, customers and operations as the storm progresses,” said spokesman Drake Castenada. “For customers with booked travel through the impacted region, we have issued a travel waiver for customers to be able to make any necessary changes to their plans.”

JetBlue Airways said in a statement it is “canceling flights that will not be able to operate and will resume normal operations in impacted cities as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The airline has fee waivers in place “for customers traveling through select cities in the projected path” of the storm.

On their websites, both JetBlue and Spirit Airlines are listing terms and instructions for alternative travel to cities affected by the storm without additional costs.

Bracing for disruptions

Throughout  the day, South Florida airports maintained a status of watching and waiting, as flight delays and cancellations stayed at a rough equivalent of business as usual. But they did report disruptions caused by the abrupt overnight closure of Tampa International Airport. according to officials and locally generated statistics.  .

“As of now there is minimal impact,” said Paris Tyburski, spokeswoman at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

She said the airport expected 16 flight cancellations in and out of the airport Tuesday, with a mix of domestic and international flights affected.

There were six arrival cancellations involving flights from Tampa, and 10 departure cancellations involving Tampa, Orlando, Ronald Reagan Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Miami International reported that American canceled eight flights Tuesday that were scheduled to fly to and from Tampa.

“So far today, AA has canceled four arrivals and four departures between MIA and Tampa because of Idalia,” said airport spokesman Greg Chin.

It was a quiet day at Palm Beach International Airport, which largely avoided disruptions with no cancellations and only 14 delays spread among several airlines on Tuesday, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

Caution along the Gulf

Following scripts prepared for Hurricane Ian, which pounded Southwest Florida in September 2022, Gulf Coast airports activated emergency storm plans and advised travelers to seek alternate arrangements. Airlines, meanwhile, prepared to move their aircraft elsewhere.

Here is the status of Gulf Coast airports as of Tuesday afternoon, according to websites and public announcements:

  • Tampa International Airport: Closed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, causing the cancellation of 500 flights scheduled into Wednesday. “The closure will allow the airport and its partners to prepare the airfield and terminals, including the securing of jet bridges, ground equipment and any remaining aircraft before Idalia’s expected landfall early Wednesday as a potential major hurricane,” the airport said in a website statement.  It added that the facility “anticipates reopening Thursday morning. with damage assessment beginning after the storm passes.”
  • St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport: Located across the bay, the airport was scheduled to close at 3 p.m. Tuesday with plans to reopen Wednesday at 3 pm. Passengers are advised to check with their airlines for flight updates.
  • Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport: Located south of Tampa, the airport said it planned to close Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. and reopen at 7 a.m. Wednesday “pending damage assessment.” It advised travelers to contact their airlines for flight updates.
  • Naples Airport: The city-owned facility said it is beginning preparations for Idalia and closed its administrative offices on Tuesday. Officials said there would be “limited” fixed-base operation and air traffic control services.  The airport also advised tenants and customers to review the airport’s hurricane preparedness plan.
  • Southwest Florida International Airport: The gateway airport to the Fort Myers area, which was hit hard by Hurricane Ian, remains open although management is closely monitoring the storm.

In Central Florida, Orlando International Airport remains open but is closely monitoring the storm’s progress.

“Our airport is open and operational,” the airport said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We continue to monitor the status of Hurricane #Idalia — we do not foresee any significant impact to our operations at this time. If operational changes occur, we’ll post about it. Please check with your airline in regards to your flight.”

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