Airlines cancel 2,000 U.S. flights for Thursday

Local residents walk on sand while water is being blown out of Tampa Bay ahead of Hurricane Ian at in Tampa, Florida, U.S., September 28, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Sept 28 (Reuters) - Airlines canceled almost 2,000 U.S. flights for Thursday after Hurricane Ian hit Florida's Gulf Coast with catastrophic force in one of most powerful U.S. storms in recent years.

The hurricane is causing significant disruptions to U.S. air travel, especially in the southeast United States. Since Tuesday airlines have canceled more than 5,000 flights through Friday.

Airlines canceled 2,163 flights Wednesday as a number of Florida airports temporarily halted operations, including Tampa, Orlando, Sarasota-Bradenton, Melbourne, Daytona Beach, Naples and St Petersburg/Clearwater.

Airline tracking website Flightaware said 1,935 flights for Thursday had been canceled and 738 Friday flights scrapped. Airlines canceled 403 flights Tuesday ahead of the storm.

The Orlando airport said it expects to resume commercial operations sometime on Friday. The Tampa airport said it will be closed through at least Thursday.

Walt Disney (DIS.N)said on Tuesday it would close its Orlando theme parks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Florida is a major part of U.S. aviation, and some carriers like JetBlue Airways (JBLU.O) and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) typically expect 40% or more of their daily flights to touch a Florida airport.

Through Wednesday, JetBlue canceled 25% of its U.S. flights and 20% of Thursday flights, while Southwest canceled 13% of Wednesday flights and 9% for Thursday. Another 3,106 U.S. flights were delayed on Wednesday.

Airlines offered waivers for travelers impacted by the hurricane to rebook tickets without charge.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler

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