US airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights due to the flood-induced and ongoing closure of South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport.
The airport, which halted operations last night after being pummelled by heavy rain, had intended to open at noon local time today.
But the airport – large parts of which apparently remain submerged under floodwater – now says it will remain closed until 05:00 local time on Friday, 14 April.
First look at flooding at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Airport remains closed through at least noon today. pic.twitter.com/u1Ed1rpzVC— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) April 13, 2023
“Due to the volume of flooding and debris on FLL’s airfields, the airport will remain closed for flight activity today,” Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood says in a 13 April tweet. “This will allow airport staff to work to restore partial operations on one runway, providing current conditions do not worsen.”
The closure has thrown a major hiccup into airline operations – just as carriers have been working to put behind them a series of high-profile disruptions that marred operations last year.
But while previous disruptions – including Southwest Airlines’ operational collapse during the end-of-year travel season – resulted at least partly from factors within carriers’ control, weather is to blame for Fort Lauderdale’s closure.
Storms dumped 0.5m (20in) of rain on the Fort Lauderdale area over several hours yesterday, according to reports, leaving the airport under water. Pictures and video posted on social media show that runways, taxiways and airport roadways remain submerged.
More rain may be on the way. The US National Weather Service warns that “heavy rain is possible this evening, especially over metro areas Broward and Miami Dade countries”. Fort Lauderdale is in Broward County.
Miami International airport, which is about 20 miles (32km) south of Fort Lauderdale, appears to have been largely spared. Most flights there are operating on time, according to that airport’s website.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, having rapidly expanded in recent years, is a major US airport, with about 720 flights arriving and departing daily, Cirium data shows.
The closure has apparently most impacted Spirit Airlines, which is based near Fort Lauderdale and operates more flights there than any other carrier. The ultra-discounter has cancelled 210 flights on 13 April, or 24% of its schedule, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com.
JetBlue Airways, which operates the second-most flights at Fort Lauderdale, has cancelled 159 flights (15% of its total operation), and Southwest Airlines – third place at the airport by number of flights – has scrapped 107 flights (2% of its schedule), FlightAware shows.
Those carriers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.