Written by David Shepherdson and Kanaki Deka
(Reuters) – Airlines canceled more than 2,000 US flights on Tuesday and Wednesday and some Florida airports suspended operations as they prepared for the impact of Hurricane Ian, which was due to make landfall in the state.
Airlines canceled 367 flights on Tuesday and 1,748 flights on Wednesday across the United States, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.com.
Flightaware.com data showed that about 1,800 flights within, within or outside the United States were delayed on Tuesday.
Hurricane Ian entered the US Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and is expected to become a dangerous Category 4 storm over the warm waters of the Gulf, according to National Hurricane Center meteorologist Eric Blake.
Hurricane-force winds of up to 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour) and up to two feet (0.6 meters) of rain are expected to bring the Tampa area from early Wednesday through Thursday evening.
Both Tampa and St. Pete Clearwater airports in southwest Florida suspended operations on Tuesday, while Sarasota-Bradenton Airport will suspend operations at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT) and Orlando Airport will halt operations at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Walt Disney (NYSE 🙂 said Tuesday it will close its Orlando theme parks on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Even Florida’s airports that haven’t closed have had major impacts. Airlines canceled about 40% of their flights at Miami International Airport on Wednesday.
Florida is a major part of US aviation, and some airlines such as JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:) and Southwest Airlines (NYSE:) expect 40% or more of their daily flights to touch the Florida airport.
As of Tuesday afternoon, JetBlue had canceled 24% of its US flights on Wednesday, while Southwest had canceled 9%.
Southwest suspended operations Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, and suspended operations at some Florida airports.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was “closely monitoring” Hurricane Ian and its path.
Major US airlines have also halted some operations.
American Airlines (NASDAQ:) has issued a travel alert for 20 airports in the Western Caribbean and Florida waiving change fees for tickets booked by September 23.