More than 70 flights have been canceled in and out of Indianapolis International Airport as Hurricane Sandy threatens to bring a near halt to air travel for at least two days in the northeastern United States.
Major airlines such as Delta, Southwest, United and US Airways on Monday canceled 38 flights departing Indianapolis to several airports in New York, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Airlines also have canceled 36 flights scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis the same day.
“[The airlines have] been trying to cancel them early so people aren’t stranded,” airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said.
So far for Tuesday, carriers have canceled only four flights departing and two flights arriving in Indianapolis.
According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, nearly 7,500 flights had been canceled nationwide for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm.
Delays rippled across the United States, affecting travelers in cities from San Francisco to Chicago. Disruptions spread to Europe and Asia, where airlines canceled or delayed flights to New York and Washington from cities that are major travel hubs, including London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is about 310 miles southeast of New York City, and the center of the storm is expected to be near the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday night. The National Hurricane Center said early Monday that the storm has top sustained winds of 85 mph, with higher gusts. Sandy is on track to collide with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.
Airports in the metropolitan New York City area are open, but air carriers are not operating.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday that travelers shouldn't even try to go to Kennedy, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and Stewart airports.
Air travel in the Northeast started getting complicated on Sunday, when passengers were reporting multi-hour wait times at airline call centers.
Eileen Merberg, 50, was booked on a United flight from her home in Rochester, N.Y., to New Orleans, connecting at Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport.
She received an e-mail saying the Washington flight was canceled. United rebooked her first on a flight through Newark and, when that flight was also canceled, on another flight through Chicago.
By that point, she already had told the higher education conference that she was scheduled to speak at that she wouldn't be coming. She tried to cancel her flight over the phone. After two lengthy waits — her cell phone battery ran out during the first one — she just hung up.
International travelers would have to wait to get to the East Coast of the United States. All flights from Paris to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington — a total of 14 — were canceled. Air France has canceled four into JFK and two departures.
Frankfurt airport canceled 12 flights, with German carrier Lufthansa scrapping three to the Northeast and one out of Newark. British Airways had to cancel all its flights to and from New York, Newark, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Boston and Philadelphia — a total of 20.
Eight flights out of Tokyo's Narita International Airport to New York, Newark and Washington were canceled Monday.
Hong Kong's Cathay canceled its two daily flights to New York for Monday and Tuesday and Air India said its daily flights to Newark and JFK had halted since Sunday.
South Korean flag carrier Korean Air delayed a flight scheduled to leave Incheon International Airport for JFK on Monday by 22 hours. Asiana Airlines delayed its JFK flight from Seoul by 26 hours.
Meanwhile, Bertolini at Indianapolis International Airport said some airlines have contacted the airport to secure tarmac space to park airplanes to avoid the impact of the storm.
“This is common and something we’ve done in the past,” he said.