Airlines cancelled over 2,000 US flights on Tuesday and Wednesday and some Florida airports halted operations as they braced for impact from Hurricane Ian, which is set to make landfall in the state.
Airlines had scrapped 367 flights on Tuesday and 1,748 on Wednesday across the United States, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.com. About 1,800 flights within, into or out of the United States were delayed on Tuesday, the website showed.
Hurricane Ian entered the US Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, and is forecast to become a dangerous category 4 storm over the warm waters of the Gulf, according to National Hurricane Center forecaster Eric Blake.
It is expected to bring hurricane-force winds of up to 209km/h and as much as 0.6m of rain to the Tampa area starting early on Wednesday through Thursday evening.
Both Tampa and St Pete-Clearwater airports in southwest Florida halted operations on Tuesday, while the Sarasota Bradenton Airport will suspend operations at 8pm local time (00.00 GMT). The Orlando Airport will cease operations at 10.30am local time, on Wednesday.
Walt Disney said on Tuesday that it would close its Orlando theme parks for the next two days.
Even Florida airports not closing were experiencing major impacts. Airlines cancelled about 40 per cent of flights at the Miami International Airport on Wednesday.
Florida is a major part of US aviation, and some airlines like JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines typically expect 40 per cent or more of their daily flights touch a Florida airport.
JetBlue and Southwest have both cancelled 24 per cent and 9 per cent of their US flights (respectively), on Tuesday afternoon, all through Wednesday.
Southwest also suspended operations on Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, and at a few other airports in Florida.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was "closely monitoring" Hurricane Ian and its path.
Major US carriers also halted some operations.
American Airlines issued a travel alert for 20 airports in the western Caribbean and Florida, waiving change fees for tickets booked by September 23.
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