Hurricane Ian, a Category 3 storm, has impacted airline and airport operations across the Caribbean and the United States. Cayman Airways decided to relocate aircraft out of Grand Cayman on Monday, Havana Airport in Cuba, Orlando Airport and Tampa Airport in the US closed, Caribbean Airlines suspended several routes, and Miami, and Fort Lauderdale airports are closely monitoring the development of the storm.
At 5:00 a.m ET Tuesday, Ian strengthened into a major Category 3 storm. It had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) and has hit several countries across the Caribbean. According to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), “little change in strength is expected while Ian moves over Cuba. Strengthening is expected later this morning after Ian emerges over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Ian is forecasted to approach the west coast of Florida as a dangerous major hurricane.”
Hurricane Ian strengthened into a major Category 3 storm on Tuesday. Photo: NHC.
To address this dangerous situation, airports across the region have already announced several measures in place. On Monday, Havana Airport (HAV) in Cuba announced it would suspend flights between September 26 at 22:00 and September 28 at 0:00.
Tampa International Airport (TPA) announced it will suspend all operations at 17:00 on Tuesday. Hurricane Ian continues to threaten the Tampa Bay region with strong winds, heavy rain, and storm surge said the airport authorities in a statement.
By closing at 17:00, the airport authorities will have time to prepare the airfield and terminals, including securing jet bridges, ground equipment, and any remaining aircraft. The hub, including the Main Terminal, Airsides, and parking garages, will be closed to all visitors at that time.
Orlando International (MCO) announced on Tuesday it will cease commercial operations at 10:30 am on Wednesday. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority has activated the airport’s Emergency Operations Center, it said in a statement.
Closely monitoring the situation
Florida’s three major airports are not expected to be fully impacted by Hurricane Ian. Miami International (MIA), and Fort Lauderdale International (FLL) have all released statements saying they will closely monitor the development of the hurricane.
Spirit Airlines also issued a travel advisory for operations at Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers (RSW), Miami, Orlando, and Tampa between September 27 and 30. Overall there are 11,835 weekly flights departing from Florida’s 21 airports, according to data by Cirium. Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa have the largest share of the services, with 76.5% of all the flights.
Havana Airport closed. Photo: Getty Images.
Moving aircraft away from the storm
On Monday, Cayman Airways announced that “out of an abundance of caution for the safety of all aircraft, and to ensure business continuity after the storm,” it would relocate its fleet.
Three of its Boeing 737 MAX planes (out of four) stayed at different US airports during the night after completing their last commercial services. VP-CIX remained at New York (JFK) after the completion of service KX792 from Grand Cayman; VP-CIW overnighted in Miami after completing KX106 from Grand Night, and VP-CIY overnighted in Tampa. Meanwhile, VP-CIZ was ferried to Cayman Brac. Finally, the active Airways Express fleet was relocated to the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport (CKIA) in Cayman Brac.
Meanwhile, Caribbean Airlines advised passengers it had canceled its flights BW476 and BW477 between Piarco International Airport (POS) and Havana on September 27. Instead, it will operate a new service between these two Caribbean hubs on September 29.