Florida's Major Airports Assess Damage, Begin to Reopen After Hurricane Irma

Airlines are preparing their recovery schedules, which may take several days to execute

Major airports throughout the Sunshine State are beginning to reopen and are still assessing the damage done by Hurricane 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.

Miami International Airport re-opened Tuesday morning with flights resuming on a limited basis. The airport endured nearly 100 mph wind gusts and sustained significant water damage from Irma Sunday, according to Aviation Director and CEO Emilio Gonzalez.

"The damage is in the gate areas, where water leaked in from jet bridges and the roof. The terminals with most damage are J, H, G, F and E," MIA Airport spokesman Greg Chin said. 

The airport said on Tuesday that operations resumed there on a limited basis, and will continue to increase its operations daily until they are at full operations, which is expected to happen this weekend.

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Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport also re-opened early Tuesday. The airport is also running on limited operations. 

Officials said only the south runway at FLL was open because of standing water on the north runway.

The damage at the airport from Hurricane Irma was minimal, according to officials at the Broward County Aviation Department. Spots where the roof leaked in all four terminals were being patched up and crews were repairing sliding doors that were knocked off the hinges but not broken. The airport didn't lose power at any point.

"Everything's working fine. All of our equipment was undamaged really so considering what we were facing earlier in the week, we are really fortunate to be facing what we are today," Aviation Department spokesman Greg Meyer said.

With thousands of flights canceled since Thursday, officials anticipate that the airport will be very busy Tuesday and for the rest of the week.

"We have to make sure we're ready to go when we have 60,000 or 80,000 people who are trying to get out of Fort Lauderdale," Meyer said.

Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon Airport remained closed to travelers Tuesday but was operational only for emergency response flights. The airports already have begun to receive emergency supplies and other emergency resources, officials said.

Orlando International Airport closed Saturday and won't reopen to passenger traffic until after Hurricane Irma has passed, a damage assessment has been completed, necessary recovery efforts have been made and airlines are consulted to determine when best to resume operations.

Tampa International Airport was also closed as Hurricane Irma moved up the Florida peninsula.

Airlines are preparing their recovery schedules, which may take several days to execute.

All airports want to remind everyone to check with your airline prior to heading to the airport to make sure your flight is still scheduled.

American Airlines announced that they are going to begin resuming limited operations in South Florida once the airports reopen. AA says they have capped their fares at $99 on direct, single leg flights from all cities affected under American Airlines’ travel alert, which can be found here.

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.

Delta said they were starting to operate flights Tuesday, including flights between Atlanta and Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando.

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.

Anyone traveling out of any airport should make sure to check with their airline to make sure their flight is on schedule.

This story will be updated as more airlines and transportation operators provide NBC 6 with information on their updated travel protocols. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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