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United yet to estimate tropical storm Harvey impact

United Airlines has yet to forecast the financial impact from tropical storm Harvey, as the carrier's Houston hub remains closed due to flooding.

"The financial impact's going to be what it's going to be," says Scott Kirby, president of United, at the Boyd International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas today.

The Chicago-based carrier is focused on "taking care of our people and customers" for the time being, he says. This includes aiding Houston-based employees who are stuck elsewhere around United's network and flying unscheduled Boeing 777 relief flights to Houston Intercontinental with supplies to aid those impacted from the storm.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has closed Houston Intercontinental, United's second largest hub, through at least noon on Thursday, 31 August.

The airline will resume operations at the airport with flights to its other hubs and select long-haul widebody flights initially, says Kirby.

Analysts at Cowen forecast that United could lose at least $265 million in revenue through 31 August as a result of the airport closures. This number is likely to rise as passengers cancel or postpone travel to Houston during the recovery efforts after the flooding subsides.

United has been able to accommodate passengers that were scheduled to connect over Houston on other flights, says Kirby. He does not comment on the potential impact to travel over the Labor Day holiday this weekend.

Airlines for America (A4A) forecasts that 6.1 million people will travel over the holiday weekend, which it defines as 30 August to 5 September. This is up 5% from 2016.

Harvey hit South Texas north of Corpus Christi as a category four hurricane overnight on 25 August. It was downgraded to a tropical storm but released record levels of rain on the region, causing widespread flooding.

Local officials do not know when the flooding, which has closed most major roadways in the Houston area, will subside.

United has cancelled at least 2,024 mainline flights from 27 August to 31 August, according to the website Flightaware.com.

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