If Hurricane Irene continues on its current path, air travelers with flights anywhere from Norfolk to New England should probably plan on staying put this weekend.
Earlier this afternoon, both AirTran and Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood International Airport, issued travel waivers for customers with planned flights to about a dozen cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Hartford, New York, Philalelphia, Portland (Maine) and several others.
Most airlines, including Southwest and AirTran, are allowing travelers booked for flights anytime from Friday to Monday to reschedule their trips without paying fees.
This doesn't mean that hundreds of flights have been cancelled - that won't happen until the hurricane gets closer. But it does mean the airlines acknowledge the risk of significant weather delays as well as the reluctance to put valuable planes in the harm's way - on the ground or in the air.
When tropical storm Isabel hit the region in 2003, hundreds of flights were cancelled and BWI-Marshall Airport was forced to close.
Officials at BWI-Marshall today said they are preparing for the heavy winds and rain expected to accompany Hurricane Irene. The airport is monitoring for flooding on the airfield, checking generators and securing equipment that could become airborne in high winds.
BWI advises travelers to consider using covered parking and to always check with their airline before heading to the airport.
Better yet, just stay home.
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