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Flight cancellations mount as Irma pushes north from Florida

By: DAVID KOENIG, Associated Press
September 11, 2017 Updated: September 11, 2017 at 5:51 pm
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photo - FILE - This Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, file photo, shows a monitor listing canceled flights at Miami International Airport in Miami. As of Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, airlines have canceled more flights as air travel in Florida remains grounded and Irma spins farther north. High winds have caused Delta and American to cancel many flights in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. Airlines hope to resume Miami flights Tuesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
FILE - This Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, file photo, shows a monitor listing canceled flights at Miami International Airport in Miami. As of Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, airlines have canceled more flights as air travel in Florida remains grounded and Irma spins farther north. High winds have caused Delta and American to cancel many flights in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. Airlines hope to resume Miami flights Tuesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) 

Airports up and down Florida remained closed Monday and flight cancellations moved north along with Tropical Storm Irma.

More than 4,200 U.S. flights scheduled for Monday were canceled by mid-afternoon — and more than 9,000 since Saturday — according to tracking service FlightAware.

Still, Irma weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm and did not cause as much damage in Florida as some forecasters had feared. Airline stocks rose, led by American Airlines, which has a huge base in Miami.

American had planned to restart in Miami on Monday but pushed service back until Tuesday. Spokesman Ross Feinstein said the airline had to wait for approval to fly from federal aviation officials, and until security screeners and airport vendors could return to work.

Terminal buildings at Miami International Airport suffered significant water damage, and ceiling tiles at gate areas fell down throughout the airport, said spokesman Greg Chin. Crews were mopping up.

At nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, there were some leaks in terminal roofs and trees were downed in the employee parking lot, but overall damage was minimal, said spokesman Greg Meyer. He said water on the runways was receding.

Airlines were expected to fly empty planes to the Fort Lauderdale airport later Monday to operate departing flights Tuesday morning, Meyer said.

Disruptions spread beyond Florida. Delta canceled 900 flights Monday, including many at its Atlanta hub because of high winds. Southwest canceled the rest of the day's Atlanta schedule in early afternoon. American scrapped 300 flights in Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the wind.

United Parcel Service Co. and FedEx Corp. couldn't make flights into Miami, where each has a major sorting facility, and it was unclear when deliveries would resume, partly because so many customers evacuated to avoid the storm.

"Even if we're able to make deliveries, can customers receive them?" said UPS spokesman Matthew O'Connor.

With Florida's biggest airports expected to reopen Tuesday, airlines won't lose as much money on lost flights — nothing like the $150 million hit that United suffered last month from Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Shares of American Airlines Group Inc. soared $2.26, or 5.2 percent, to close at $45.86. Spirit Airlines Inc. jumped $1.53, or 4.6 percent, to $34.63; and JetBlue Airways Corp. rose 68 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $19.38.

Those three have a greater percentage of flights in Florida and the Caribbean than do their rivals, according to a Raymond James analyst. Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and other airlines also rose although by smaller percentages.

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