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Irene-related travel delays expected to last for days

Many travelers heading to and from the East Coast still face days of delays even as airlines start flying again today at major airports that closed for Hurricane Irene.

More than 11,000 flights were canceled nationwide over the weekend, and hundreds more will be scrubbed this morning, the flight-tracking service FlightAware said.

There's no easy way to squeeze all those displaced passengers onto scheduled flights, especially if airports around New York — the nation's busiest airspace — encounter delays reopening today. And ground transport alternatives remain limited, with bus and train service disrupted as well along the East Coast.

Airlines won't say how many passengers have been grounded since Irene came ashore in North Carolina on Saturday. FlightAware put the total around 650,000, noting that many of the 11,800-plus canceled flights were on regional airlines that use small planes.

Finding open seats will be especially difficult this week because it's the last gasp of the summer vacation season. "We're coming into the Labor Day holiday weekend, so a lot of those flights are already full," said Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways.

Airlines resumed flights Sunday at airports around Washington, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va. But the longer closure of the New York area's Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, N.J., airports means travel delays will continue rippling across the country.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three airports, said Sunday that Kennedy and Newark would open to arriving flights at 6 a.m. Monday, with departures beginning at noon. LaGuardia was to reopen at 7 a.m.

TIA cancellations

Airlines canceled 91 flights scheduled Sunday to arrive or depart from Tampa International Airport, a spokeswoman said. Brenda Geoghagan said 46 arrivals and 45 departures mostly traveling between the northeastern states were canceled. She cautioned passengers traveling in the next few days to check with airlines for cancellations. Passengers also can check the status of flights at tampabayairport.com/flights.

Irene-related travel delays expected to last for days 08/28/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 28, 2011 11:44pm]

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