Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines canceled about 900 flights Sept. 11 as crosswinds from Tropical Storm Irma are expected to impact Delta’s hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). Delta said the expected strong winds will exceed operating limits on select mainline and regional aircraft.
“At issue is Irma’s anticipated general north-south wind direction relative to Atlanta’s east-west runway configuration,” Delta said. “As is the case at all airports, Atlanta’s five runways are aligned with the prevailing wind, which generally blows from the east or west. Aircraft are best suited to take off and land into the wind for better performance. When the wind direction is perpendicular to the runway, it’s called a crosswind and can make landing challenging and potentially unsafe. A slight crosswind is allowable and can be safely managed, but a 40 mph or greater crosswind, as the storm is expected to bring in Atlanta, may exceed allowable limits.”
Delta also advised that wind shear and lightning may occur in the Atlanta region and prompt additional flight cancellations.
Airline and airport operations throughout the southeastern US and the Caribbean remain in a state of recovery and assessment following Irma’s path of destruction and upheaval over the past week. St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport took a direct hit Sept. 6 when Irma was still a category 5 hurricane, and reportedly suffered catastrophic damage.
Airports in Florida were largely shuttered over the weekend, beginning Friday evening Sept. 8. Thousands of flights to Florida and the Caribbean were canceled during the period; the total number of flights cancelled remains to be calculated.
Hurricane Irma shifted course as it moved from Cuba toward Florida Sept. 9-10. Instead of a direct US hit on Miami, the storm moved over the Florida Keys and up the state’s Gulf coast, impacting Fort Myers and Tampa directly, as hurricane-force winds and rain battered the entire state. As of 11 a.m. Sept. 11, the now downgraded tropical storm is moving into southwestern Georgia, but its maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph extend outward up to 415 miles from the storm center—from Tallahassee, Florida in the west to Charleston, South Carolina in the east.
Meanwhile, at least eight major airlines have announced flight cancellations Sept. 11 as airports in the impacted regions assess infrastructure damage and evaluate resuming operations. Several cancellations are extended through Wednesday, Sept. 13.
Besides Delta, LCCs including Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, Denver-based Frontier Airlines and Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit Airlines have all canceled flights Sept. 11. Alaska Airlines also canceled Sept. 11 flights, as well as New York-based JetBlue (which canceled about 520 flights Sept. 10-11 and an additional 730 flights from Sept. 11-13), South America’s LATAM Airlines, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, and Mexican LCC Volaris.
Dallas/Fort Worth-based American Airlines, Aeromexico, and Chicago-based United have issued travel alerts regarding affected airports, as well as travel change fee waivers, but have not specified cancellations.
Delta is planning to restart flights the afternoon/evening of Sept. 11 at Miami International Airport (MIA); Fort Lauderdale (FLL); West Palm Beach (PBI); Melbourne (MLB); Orlando (MCO); Jacksonville (JAX); with tentative plans for Sept. 12 resumption of service at Key West (EYW); Fort Myers (RSW); Tampa (TPA). Delta’s resumption of service to Caribbean airports in St. Maarten (SXM), St. Thomas (STT) and Nassau, Bahamas (NAS) is pending infrastructure assessment.
Several airlines are helping in the post-hurricane humanitarian effort. Delta on Monday operated a flight from ATL to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, which took a direct hit and is still mostly cut off, delivering recovery supplies and carrying out 150 US citizens to Detroit, including those with medical needs.
Delta said the Boeing 757 was loaded with items for St. Thomas airport, which is still closed to scheduled flights, including TSA supplies, satellite phones, batteries and phone chargers. Water, dry goods and non-perishable items were also included.