As Hurricane Florence looms, flight cancellations begin at Charlotte’s airport

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This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. Thursday.

With Hurricane Florence approaching, the first wave of flight cancellations later this week at Charlotte Douglas International Airport started Wednesday, but the airport remains open.

Staff at Charlotte Douglas will move to 12-hour shifts and activate the airport’s irregular operations plan starting Friday evening, and assist any stranded passengers with needed supplies. Airport workers were securing equipment and sweeping building roofs and other areas for debris ahead of the storm Thursday evening. Charlotte Douglas officials are encouraging travelers to check with their airline about the status of individual flights.

Southwest Airlines said on Twitter that the airline will suspend its operations at Charlotte as of midday Thursday and has “canceled all flights in and out of the airport through Friday night,” the company said. Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines followed suit Wednesday and canceled its scheduled flights throughout the Southeast.

But American Airlines, the largest carrier by far at Charlotte Douglas, said it hasn’t canceled any Charlotte flights yet because of the storm. Thursday morning, American still listed Florence’s effect on Charlotte Douglas as “No impact to operations at this time.”

The airline operates more than 700 flights a day from Charlotte, which is its second-busiest hub. An airline representative said American is monitoring the situation from its Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters.

Scattered cancellations are expected at Raleigh/Durham International Airport starting Friday, American said. Other airports, including Wilmington and Charleston, shut down Wednesday night through at least Friday because of the storm. American Airlines is suspending operations at Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina Thursday evening to Saturday, The State reported.

So far, American has canceled 565 flights through Sunday.

The airline has waived change fees for customers flying to or from the Carolinas this week, allowing them to book tickets for new dates to avoid potential disruptions.

Tropical storm-force winds (39 mph or more) could arrive in the Charlotte region as early as Thursday, during the day, according to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center. High winds are most likely to start lashing Charlotte on Friday morning. The region has a better than 50 percent chance of experiencing sustained tropical storm-force winds over the next five days.

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