Isaac leads airlines to cancel New Orleans flights

Storm over Gulf of Mexico is expected to grow into Category 1 hurricane

By Scott Mayerowitz
AP Airlines Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Airlines are cancelling New Orleans flights in anticipation of hurricane winds and rain from Isaac.

All airlines were to stop flying at the end of Monday’s schedule, and no flights were scheduled Tuesday, a brief news release from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport said.

The move comes after large cancellations in southern Florida on Sunday due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

The storm over the Gulf of Mexico was expected to grow into a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of 74 mph to 95 mph, and hit land late Tuesday night.

American Airlines, Southwest and United were the first suspensions announced at Armstrong, which handles about 10,000 passengers a day in August.

Southwest cancelled 80 flights on Tuesday to and from New Orleans. Three additional flights were added Monday night to help accommodate passengers on the cancelled flights. The airline will make a decision about Wednesday’s flights late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, according to spokeswoman Ashley Dillon.

Each Southwest plane on that route holds 137 passengers.

United Airlines, part of United Continental Holdings Inc., has cancelled all of its flights for Tuesday and Wednesday. It has 40 flights a day in and out of the airport, according to spokesman Joe Micucci.

American Airlines, part of AMR Corp., has cancelled all of its flights until Thursday morning. But the airline was frustrated with New Orleans airport executives, saying they shut the facility prematurely.

“We could have kept flying for a big chunk of Tuesday, but you can’t land at a closed airport,” spokesman Ed Martelle said via email. The airline planned for its last flight out to be a 7:45 p.m. Monday.

Airlines typically move planes out of a storm’s path to protect them and ensure a faster return to service. However, they like to wait until the last possible moment to cancel flights.

While New Orleans is preparing for the worst, airports in Florida were returning to normal operations Monday. More than 400 flights were cancelled at U.S. airports on Monday.