All flights from Miami International Airport have been cancelled
All flights from Miami International Airport have been cancelled

Hurricane Irma: Airlift under way as Florida airports start to close

'Our ability to provide assistance may be extremely limited,' says Foreign Office

 

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 09 September 2017 16:28
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“All flights have ceased operations in preparation for Hurricane Irma”: that is the blunt message on the front page of Miami International Airport’s website.

The last take-off from the usually hyperactive airport was shortly before 10pm on Friday night: an Air Europa departure for Madrid.

“There are no scheduled flights for Saturday and Sunday,” says the airport.

Along the coast at Fort Lauderdale, it was a similar story. “We’ll re-open as soon as possible,” tweeted the airport.

UK airlines have cancelled many flights to Florida, and rescheduled others.

Going nowhere: Cancellations on the departure screen at Fort Lauderdale airport

Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines are flying out to Orlando before the airport closes at 5pm local time on Saturday (10pm BST) to bring back several thousand passengers — mainly to Gatwick but also to Manchester, Glasgow and Stansted.

At nearby Sanford airport, the only departures on Saturday are Thomson Airways, flying passengers home to Bristol, East Midlands and Gatwick.

The Independent understands that the crew of the outbound flights which are operating will travel back on the inbound sector as passengers, rather than being stranded in Florida.

BA flew its planned Gatwick-Tampa flight today, but rescheduled the Boeing 777 jet so that it can leave the Florida city at 5pm, shortly before the airport closes.

British Airways is flying another 777 from London out to Bermuda to wait on the ground until Florida's airports re-open. Its crew will then fly to the state to pick up stranded passengers, and return to the UK.

Virgin Atlantic plans to operate several more rescue flights from Orlando “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

“We don’t yet know how long Orlando Airport will be closed for,” said a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic.

The Foreign Office is urging British visitors to Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia to “follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders”.

“The situation could deteriorate significantly,” warns the latest travel advice bulletin.

Plane captures aerial view of Hurricane Irma as it heads towards the United States

“Our ability to provide assistance may be extremely limited. You should ensure you have your own contingency plans in place and consider your travel plans very carefully.

US airlines have been mounting airlifts to clear passengers from Florida. Delta sent Boeing 747 Jumbo jets from Detroit to help clear the the backlog.

British Airways has also cancelled Saturday’s round-trip to Antigua “due to a change in the path of Hurricane Jose”.

Virgin Atlantic says: “We anticipate being able to operate a rescue flight from Antigua on Sunday.”

To bring passengers home from St Kitts, BA chartered two planes from the Caribbean airline, Liat, to fly them from St Kitts to Barbados. An empty aircraft was flown from London to bring them back from Barbados. It left the island at 5am and is due back at Gatwick at 6.30pm on Saturday.

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