The jury remains out on the impact of superstorm Sandy on the financials for airlines, as operations creep back to normal.

Airlines had cancelled 18,445 flights in North America since 27 October through this morning due to Sandy, according to The website says that an additional 2,664 flights were cancelled today as of 05:30.

LGA flooding

JetBlue Airways

Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines chief executive Ben Baldanza that says Sandy's impact on its fourth quarter will be "significant", during an earnings call today. He did not quantify the impact, but says the carrier has cancelled 136 flights through today.

The consensus among airlines is that there will be an impact from the storm but that it is too early to say by how much. Bob McAdoo, an airline analyst at Imperial Capital, says that there was only a small financial impact during the snowstorm of 2010 when acomparable number of flights were cancelled. However, he notes that it will depend on when the airlines can return to normal operations, which includes getting employees and passengers to the airport in addition to clearing the runways and resuming flights.

"Our concern now is getting the airline up and running, and making sure employees and passengers are safe," says US Airways. The Tempe, Arizona-based carrier plans to resume operations at New York's John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Newark airports on 1 November, and hopes to begin flights into LaGuardia by 2 November.

All three New York area airports were shut down during the storm. Sandy knocked out power to Newark and caused flooding at JFK and LaGuardia.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) says that JFK and Newark are open but with limited service. It is assessing when it can reopen LaGuardia, which suffered more severe flooding, it says.

American Airlines says that it will resume flights from JFK and Newark in the morning on 1 November and from LaGuardia that same afternoon.

Delta Air Lines says that it will resume limited operations at JFK and Newark today, and anticipates resuming flights at LaGuardia on 1 November.

JetBlue Airways plans to operate about a 50% schedule at its JFK hub on 1 November with full operations the next day, it says. Newark will be at a full schedule on 1 November.

United Airlines will operate a limited inbound schedule into Newark today and may operate a limited number of outbound flights this evening, it says. It anticipates 50% operations at JFK today with normal operations at both airports on 1 November, according to an employee bulletin.

The bulletin also says that there will be normal operations at LaGuardia by 1 November.

"Damage from the storm has been extensive," wrote Jeff Smisek, chief executive of United, in a letter to employees. "The runways at LaGuardia have been flooded, and there has been some facility damage at Newark that we are currently assessing. Moreover, there are power issues at Newark currently, and the surrounding bridges are closed."

With recovery and safety the focus at all airlines, Smisek sums up the general sentiment towards those in Sandy's path: "Our thoughts and our hearts are with co-workers who have been personally impacted by superstorm Sandy. Please continue to stay safe."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news