As Hurricane Matthew churned through the Caribbean and looked increasingly likely to at least come close to Florida, travel to and from the southern tip of the state began to slow down Tuesday and airlines announced more flight cancellations.
American Airlines said all flights scheduled to arrive at Miami International Airport (MIA), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) on Thursday, Oct. 6, have been canceled. The airline said it plans to resume reduced operation at 8 a.m. Friday and full operation by noon Friday at all three airports.
Delta Airlines said they've canceled 120 flights to and from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach beginning around noon Thursday. Arrivals to Miami are expected to resume late Thursday and a reset of flying to and from Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach was expected Friday morning.
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) will have limited AA flights on Friday morning and all arrival and departure flights will be canceled the remainder of the day. Service is scheduled to resume Saturday, Oct. 8.
Please stay in touch with your airline BEFORE heading to PBI. Do not plan on waiting for rescheduled flights inside PBI during the storm.
— FlyPBI (@PBI_Airport) October 5, 2016
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, 34 flights between Miami and cities in the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, and along the U.S. east coast, have been canceled due to Hurricane Matthew. According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, more than a thousands flights to and from MIA have been canceled Thursday and Friday in anticipation of Matthew. About 24 flights were canceled Tuesday.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Miami's international airport will remain open until the Federal Aviation Administration determines that it is unsafe.
"The airport always remains open, but when sustained winds reach 55 mph the Federal Aviation Administration and Miami-Dade Aviation Department cease all operations in the tower," said Suzy Trutie, spokesperson for Miami International Airport.
Officials said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will close at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, with no flights in or out. At least 34 flights were canceled and 12 delayed Wednesday as a result of the storm. Hundreds of flights scheduled to depart from and arrive in Fort Lauderdale Thursday and Friday were canceled, according to FlightAware. On Tuesday, at least 18 flights to and from the Caribbean were canceled.
Miami airport officials encourage travelers to contact airlines before going to the airport.
"The airport is not a shelter. The airport is a business and if the hurricane conditions merit shelters being opened, passengers would be evacuated to a shelter," Trutie said.
Airlines are preparing to suspend flights from Florida up through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, depending on where the hurricane strikes.
But many U.S. airlines are letting passengers change travel plans without penalty if their trip might be affected by the hurricane, which pounded Haiti on Tuesday and was barreling toward the Bahamas Wednesday.
American said it would waive change fees on trips scheduled Thursday or Friday to or from eight cities in Florida. The airline had already offered waivers on trips scheduled through Thursday in several Caribbean nations including Cuba.
United Airlines said it would waive change fees and any difference in fare for customers scheduled to fly Wednesday through Friday to, from or through five airports in Florida.
Delta waived change fees on trips through Wednesday in the Caribbean and through Thursday at eight Florida destinations, although differences in the fare would still apply.
JetBlue Airways said passengers flying Thursday through Sunday to or from eight cities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina can change planes without a fee or additional fare. A similar offer covers Caribbean travel through Thursday.
Spirit Airlines said it would waive the change fee and fare difference on Florida trips Thursday and Friday.
Southwest Airlines will allow customers with flight reservations scheduled to arrive or depart cities that have been affected by or will be in the storm's path, to re-book a new trip or travel standby within 14 days of their original travel date.