As Hurricane Matthew gained new muscle over the Bahamas and swirled toward Florida, U.S. airlines canceled thousands of flights and airports in the storm's track ceased operations.
By 2 p.m. Thursday, nearly 2,800 flights had been canceled from Wednesday through Friday in anticipation of Matthew, according to FlightAware.com. American Airlines, which has a major hub in Miami, was the hardest-hit carrier, followed by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.
American Airlines announced Thursday at 6 p.m. that most of its flights would resume sometime Friday morning or afternoon. At Miami International Airport, the airline said, AA arrivals will resume Friday morning at 10 a.m. A reduced departure schedule will begin Friday at 1 p.m. and a full departure schedule at 4 p.m.
Miami, along with Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, both shut down Thursday. Fort Lauderdale halted operations at 10:30 a.m. with Miami following at noon.
Orlando International Airport announced Thursday afternoon that it would cease commercial operations at 8 p.m. ET. It anticipates to resume flights on Saturday, Oct. 8, contingent on staff availability and clean-up ability. The airport said 110 arrival flights and 75 departure flights have already been canceled.
Orlando Melbourne International Airport closed at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. It was not clear when it expect to reopen. Jacksonville International Airport remains open, but noted several flights have been canceled. "Check flight status with your airline before coming to the airport," JAX wrote in a tweet.
The Palm Beach International Airport website doesn't say when flights will be suspended, but asked travelers to stay away, noting that the airport is not intended for use as a shelter.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Wednesday that Miami's international airport would remain open until the Federal Aviation Administration determines that it is unsafe. The FAA ceases all operations in the tower when sustained winds reach 55 mph.
Miami airport officials encourage travelers to contact airlines before going to the airport.
"The airport is not a shelter. The airport is a business and if the hurricane conditions merit shelters being opened, passengers would be evacuated to a shelter," said Suzy Trutie, spokesperson for Miami International Airport.
Hurricane Matthew has prompted airlines to offer travel waivers to passengers scheduled to fly from airports impacted by the storm.
Airlines had previously offered Matthew-related change-fee waivers to areas in the Caribbean hit by the powerful hurricane but are now extending them to cover U.S. airports as well.
American said it would waive change fees on trips scheduled between Oct. 5 to Oct. 9 from certain airports in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina. The airline had already offered waivers on trips scheduled through Thursday in several Caribbean nations including Cuba.
United Airlines said it would waive change fees and any difference in fare for customers scheduled to fly Wednesday through Friday to, from or through five airports in Florida. The waiver has also been extended to several airports in the Carolinas and Georgia.
Delta waived change fees on flights to, from and through the Caribbean between Oct. 2 and Oct. 6 that may have been impacted by Matthew. Flights Thursday and Friday in or out of eight Florida cities as well as to and from several airports in the Carolinas and Georgia can also be changed without incuring fee. Customers who wish to cancel a trip as a result of a flight cancellation are entitled to a refund.
JetBlue Airways said passengers flying Thursday through Sunday to or from eight cities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina can change planes without a fee or additional fare. A similar offer covers Caribbean travel through Thursday.
Spirit Airlines said it would waive the change fee and fare difference on Florida trips Thursday and Friday.
Southwest Airlines will allow customers with flight reservations scheduled to arrive or depart cities that have been affected by or will be in the storm's path between Oct. 2 and Oct. 7, to re-book a new trip or travel standby within 14 days of their original travel date.
Cruises have also been affected by Hurricane Matthew, with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line all rerouting some ships or modifying the order of ports.
For instance, the Carnival Elation — which is currently in the middle of a five-day cruise — is skipping Half Moon Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas, adding in an extra day at sea and an extra day in Key West, Florida. The Carnival Conquest skipped a stop in the Dominican Republic for an extra day at sea.
Royal Caribbean, however, has changed the date for at least one cruise sailing out of Port Miami. The Empress of the Seas will now depart Friday instead of Thursday.
Port Canaveral has announced it will close by Wednesday afternoon, the first time the naval port has shut down operations since 2004.
Bus and Rail
Amtrak suspended passenger rail service through Friday between Miami and New York and the auto train between Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida. A line that normally runs from New York to Savannah, Georgia, only went as far south as Washington.
Transit Operations have also been affected by the storm. Broward County Transit will cancel all scheduled bus service and paratransit service for Thursday. The county said it will decide on what service will run on Friday and Thursday evening.