The annual autumnal battle between hurricanes and North America’s airlines has begun raging, with the airlines, as always, in full retreat.
As Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas this week, airlines cancelled more than 1,200 flights. Some of the largest airports on the coasts of North and South Carolina are closed through Friday.
The next concern for airlines is Tropical Storm Isaac, which threatens to hammer vacation destinations in the Caribbean, as Hurricanes Irma and Maria did last year.
Airports in Wilmington, N.C., and Charleston, S.C., have shut, but the flight cancellations extend to airports inland based on the size and strength of Florence.
Air Canada cancelled its four return flights between Toronto and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., for Thursday and Friday, and is reviewing its weekend flights there. The two flights between Toronto and Charlotte, N.C., scheduled for Saturday have been cancelled and Sunday flights are under review.
The airline’s daily flight to Savannah, Ga., has been cancelled through Sunday.
"While the weather itself is an issue operationally, of more importance is that our people have to be safe and so it may not be possible for them to get to work, particularly in evacuation areas,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said.
WestJet Airlines Ltd. cancelled its return flight on Friday between Toronto and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Travellers booked on the Friday flight out of Myrtle Beach were brought back earlier on another airline.
Isaac has not caused WestJet to cancel any flights to the Caribbean yet, but the airline has waived change fees for travellers to Barbados.
Given the storms, airlines have urged passengers with trips booked to potentially affected areas to check with their departure airport to make sure flights will take off as planned.
U.S. airlines also waived change fees and other charges for passengers on flights in and near the Carolinas and on some Caribbean routes as Isaac grows stronger.
They cancelled flights into and out of Wilmington International and Charleston International this week, and even some flights from the coast to inland cities such as Columbia, S.C., and Raleigh-Durham.
U.S. carriers were also waiting to see what impact Florence could have on airports near Washington and in northern Virginia.
American Airlines said it has cancelled 565 flights through Sunday. Southwest Airlines cancelled 264.
Those cancellations and others are expected to ripple through the system and cause delays elsewhere in the Southeastern United States.
Separately, Toronto-Dominion Bank said it will close 17 of its 61 branches in South Carolina and two of 14 in North Carolina.
“We will reopen these stores only after we have conducted a post-hurricane assessment and determined that it is safe for our employees and customers to return,” the bank said in a statement.
With a report from the Associated Press