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Why Hurricane Ian could disrupt air travel for the next week

When Hurricane Ian roared ashore In Florida as a Category 4, the damage and destruction to infrastructure was significant — and so was the storm’s impact on travel.
In the past few days, more than 3,500 flights were canceled. And on Thursday, more than 2,000 additional flights were canceled. And by Thursday evening, more than 800 flights had already been scrapped on Friday.
But it’s actually worse than that — because entire airports shut down.
Six Florida airports were set to reopen Friday after Hurricane Ian hit the state. CBS News
When an airline stops service in a normal flight disruption event, the typical metric is that for every 12 hours the airline is down, it takes 36 hours to get back to operation — put planes back in rotation, get crews back in sequence. But in this case, it’s not just airlines down, but airports. And for every 12 hours that an airport and an airline are down, it’s more like 72 hours to get back to relatively normal operations.
Considering the damage to infrastructure and the full disruption of service, it’s estimated that it will take until Oct. 8 to resume service.
One additional consideration for this region: In normal flight operations, about 30-40% of major airline fleets fly to, through or over Florida each day, so if air traffic in Florida is disrupted, the rest of the system is disrupted as well.
The good news is there was enough advance warning to not only close airports, but move assets. Every airline flew its planes out of harm’s way and out of Florida. The airports had no planes on the ground when Ian arrived.
Earlier this week, airports that serve Orlando, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, St. Pete-Clearwater and Jacksonville all closed. While airports started reopening Friday, most flight operations still will need time to resume as planes get repositioned and crews reunite.
Several Florida airports remained closed Friday after Hurricane Ian hit the state. CBS News
Many airlines have offered special travel waivers, allowing passengers to cancel or change their flights without penalty. but most of the waivers have an unrealistic condition: Travel on the original tickets must then be re-booked and flown before Oct. 8. Considering the damage to many of these cities, and the disruption to private sector and public infrastructure, it’s doubtful that most passengers will be able to fly before Oct. 8. Or will even have a need to use those tickets, since the events to which they were flying were either canceled or indefinitely postponed, like business meetings, family reunions or weddings. Considering that, hopefully the airlines will extend the waiver deadline as we approach Oct. 8.
At this point, however, the airlines are holding firm to that Oct. 8 deadline, saying that those booking travel after that date would have to pay the difference in airfare, which can be substantial.
In the meantime, as Ian regains strength, airlines that serve Savannah, Georgia, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and South Carolina are beginning to offer waivers. While some flights have already been canceled at these airports, at this writing, those airports remained open Friday morning.

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