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For travellers, Sandy's aggravation spans globe

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | 6:17 AM    

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NEW YORK, USA (AP) — Hurricane Sandy grounded well over 10,000 flights across the Northeast and the globe, and it could be days before some passengers can get where they're going.

According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, more than 13,500 flights had been cancelled for Monday and today, almost all related to the storm. By early this morning, more than 500 flights scheduled for Wednesday also were cancelled.

Major carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta cancelled all flights into and out of three area airports in New York, the nation's busiest airspace. About one-quarter of all US flights travel to or from New York airports each day. So cancellations here can dramatically impact travel in other cities.

Delays rippled across the US, affecting travelers in cities from San Francisco to Atlanta. Others attempting to fly out of Europe and Asia also were stuck.

Narita, the international airport near Tokyo, cancelled 11 flights today — nine to the New York area and two to Washington, DC. All Nippon Airways set up a special counter at Narita to deal with passengers whose flights had been cancelled.

"All flights to New York yesterday and today are cancelled. What will happen tomorrow no one knows," airline spokeswoman Megumi Tezuka said.

Hurricane Sandy converged with a cold-weather system and made landfall over New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph winds. The monstrous hybrid of rain and high wind — and even snow in some mountainous inland areas — killed at least 16 people in seven states, cut power to more than six million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Ohio, caused scares at two nuclear power plants and stopped the presidential campaign cold.

The storm was forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York by Wednesday morning, bringing heavy rain and local flooding.

The flight cancellations were on par with a major winter storm in early 2011 that forced 14,000 flights to be scrapped over four days.

Even if storm damage is minor it could be a week before operations are normal at major East Coast airports, said Angela Gittens, director general of the Airports Council International, a trade group for airports worldwide.

"The storm has such a wide swath and so many major airports are involved that it's going to take some time (to recover) because those airplanes are so far away," said Gittens, who served as aviation director at Miami International Airport Dade during several hurricanes from 2001 to 2004.

Airports in the metropolitan New York City area were open, but air carriers were not operating. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday that travelers shouldn't even try to go to Kennedy, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and Stewart airports.

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