Airlines cancel flights to New Orleans ahead of Isaac
Updated 8:35 p.m. ET
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Airlines are cancelling all New Orleans flights in anticipation of hurricane winds and rain from Isaac.
A brief news release from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport said all airlines would stop flying at the end of Monday's schedule, with no flights scheduled Tuesday.
The move comes after large cancellations in Southern Florida on Sunday due to Tropical Storm Isaac.
The storm is over the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to grow into a Category 1 hurricane and hit land late Tuesday night. A Category 1 hurricane has winds ranging from 74 mph to 95 mph.
In addition to the canceled flights in New Orleans, nearly all flights in and out of Pensacola Regional Airport in Florida have been canceled. Gulfport-Biloxi International and Mobile Regional airports are expected to close by midday Tuesday.
Southwest initially cancelled only 80 flights on Tuesday to and from New Orleans. Three additional flights were added Monday night to help accommodate passengers on the cancelled flights.
Each Southwest plane on that route holds 137 passengers.
United Airlines, part of United Continental Holdings Inc., had already cancelled all of its flights for Tuesday and Wednesday. It has 40 flights a day in and out of the airport, according to spokesman Joe Micucci.
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American Airlines, part of AMR Corp., has cancelled all of its flights until Thursday morning. But the airline was frustrated with New Orleans airport executives, who it said shut the facility prematurely.
"We could have kept flying for a big chunk of Tuesday, but you can't land at a closed airport," spokesman Ed Martelle said via e-mail. The airline planned for its last flight out to be a 7:45 p.m. Monday.
Iftikhar Ahmad, executive director of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, said at a midday news conference Monday that the three airlines "will run today but are cancelling tomorrow." He was not immediately available for clarification about who made the final call to cancel flights. The airport was also reminding people that it is not an evacuation shelter and has restricted parking at its garages to ticketed passengers.
The airport handles about 10,000 passengers a day in August.
Airlines typically move planes out of a storm's path to protect them and ensure a faster return to service. However, they like to wait until the last possible moment to cancel flights.
While New Orleans is preparing for the worst, airports in Florida were returning to normal operations Monday. More than 400 flights were cancelled at U.S. airports on Monday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. That was down from nearly 860 on Sunday. More than half of the cancellations Sunday were American Airlines flights, according to FlightAware. The airline runs a major hub at Miami International Airport.
All airlines will waive change fees for passengers wishing to move their flight into or out of an affected city to another date. They are also offering refunds to passengers whose flights have been cancelled. The specific policies can be found on each airline's website.
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