At least 10 airports in Florida had suspended flights or announced their intention to do so by Saturday evening.
Hurricane Irma’s impact on U.S. flights continued to grow Saturday as the monster storm tracked toward Florida.
Nearly 7,000 flights to or from Florida have now been canceled because of Irma, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. The company put the total at 6,896 as of 6 p.m. ET. The cancellations currently extend through Monday, though they will likely persist well into next week.
FLIGHT TRACKER: Is your flight on time?
Irma’s presence was starting to have a huge effect on flights nationwide. For Monday alone, more than 1,200 flights have been grounded nationwide — nearly all coming on flights to or from Florida and the Southeast.
At least 10 airports in Florida had suspended flights or announced their intention to do so by Saturday evening. At several others, flights were not technically suspended, though most carriers were winding down their schedules ahead of Irma. Airports in Florida’s Panhandle were less affected as of early Saturday.
All major U.S. carriers were waiving change fees to the region. Many had expanded the policies to include airports in Georgia, South Carolina and even Alabama as Irma appears increasingly likely to head inland after striking Florida.
LIST: Which Florida airports are halting flights during Irma
Current tracks showed Irma moving toward Atlanta, raising he possibility the storm could affect flights at the world’s busiest airport next week. Delta operates its busiest hub there.
Already, 140 flights in Atlanta had been canceled on Saturday and another 188 for Sunday – though many of those cancellations were on flights to or from Florida.
Delta acknowledged that possibility Saturday, urging customers with connections through Atlanta early next week to consider changing their itineraries.
“As Delta meteorologists continue to track Hurricane Irma, strong winds and extended rain are expected in Atlanta starting Monday and could impact flights at the hub,” Delta said in a statement. “Customers with itineraries involving Atlanta Monday afternoon through Tuesday are encouraged to use delta.com to change their travel plans.”
Cancellations also were building in Savannah, near Georgia’s coast. The airport remained opened, though only a handful of flights were still operating. American, for example, had canceled all of its flights there through Monday. Delta planned to suspend its service there starting Sunday afternoon.
But, for fliers, the most immediate area of concern remained Florida. Commercial airline flights had already been halted in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, among others. Flights in Orlando were expected to end later Saturday.
It was unclear when operations might resume at Florida’s affected airports The restart will depend exactly on just how much damage Irma brings to the region. Even once the weather clears, airlines and airports will need to get crews back in place – a daunting task given that many workers have evacuated to other locations.
Fliers hoping to travel to the region next week should expect a slow and uneven recovery, though details will depend on exactly what Irma’s impact turns out to be. Beyond Florida, travelers to other parts of the Southeast should keep an eye on Irma’s precise track and check ahead on the status of their flights.