Hurricane Irma: US carriers count the cost as Florida airports reopen

September 13, 2017
Orlando Irma Hurricane southwest
Southwest check-in desks are wrapped in plastic in preparation for Hurricane Irma hitting Orlando. Photo: WFTV

US carriers are counting the cost of Hurricane Irma with American Airlines already cutting revenue expectations as flights to Florida resumed Tuesday.

The giant hurricane caused the closure of airports at 40 American Airlines destinations in the US and Caribbean, including its Miami hub, and saw the carrier cancel 5000 flights.

One estimate is that 25,000 flights were cancelled as a result of the combined impact of Irma and the earlier impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas.

American had previously estimated it would see an increase in unit revenue of 2.5 per cent in the third quarter.

It now expects the increase to be flat to up to 1 per cent.

“Including the impact of higher fuel costs for the quarter, the company now expects its third quarter 2017 pre-tax margin excluding special items1 to be between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent versus the company’s previous guidance of between 10 percent and 12 percent,’’ the airline said in its August traffic results.

The total cost to airlines of the two hurricanes is yet to be revealed but United Airlines previously estimated that Hurricane Harvey alone would cost it $US400 million in third-quarter revenue.


meanwhile, airline services are progressively returning to Florida airports after Hurricane Irma made landfall on the state’s west coast on Sunday.

The storm saw an estimated 14,000 flights cancelled  including at the world’s busiest airport and major Delta Air Lines hub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

American flight 1070 was the first to touch down in Miami early Tuesday with international flights also making a comeback.

Orlando International Airport, where thousands of tourists were left stranded, said it was phasing in limited commercial operations as it assessed damage that included flooding in the main terminal.

The Independent reported that Virgin Atlantic was sending five Boeing 747s to Orlando from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow to pick up almost 2000 stranded passengers.

Delta said the weakened storm spread rain and less severe winds across Alabama and Tennessee Tuesday but allowed most Florida operations to resume and its Atlanta hub “to work unimpeded” after hundreds of flights were cancelled Monday due to strong winds.

It was the first  airline to resume service Tuesday at Tampa, Orlando, Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale and, on Monday, West Palm Beach.

“ The smooth restart was the result of precise coordination of Delta teams across airports, flight operations, in-flight service, maintenance, dispatch and others,’’ it said.

“Delta will resume service to Fort Myers on Tuesday evening and expects a full schedule Wednesday.

“ Daytona Beach service will resume Wednesday morning.”’

The airline said it was still looking at restarting services to airports hard hit by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida’s Key West.

Airline fee waivers are still in effect at select airports and passengers should check with their airlines.