With Hurricane Matthew poised to slam the east coast of Florida and then make its way north up the Interstate 95 corridor to South Carolina, airlines canceled flights and waived change and cancellation fees for travelers.
By Thursday morning dozens of flights from Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark-Liberty and Long Island MacArthur airports had been canceled by carriers.
Shortly before 2 p.m., the flight-tracking service FlightAware.com reported that 1,500 flights within the United States had been scrapped, with the largest numbers at Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport was closed as of 10:30 a.m.
American Airlines, which has a major hub in Miami, was the hardest-hit carrier, followed by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways. FlightAware said airlines had already canceled 1,300 more flights scheduled for Friday.
Travel weather alerts were posted on airline websites, regarding flights with destinations or departures from Florida to North Carolina in the United States, as well as a host of Caribbean destinations, such as Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.
Airlines such as American, JetBlue and Southwest advised travelers that fare differences and fees would be waived due to the extenuating weather circumstances — with certain restrictions, depending on travel dates — and that, in some cases, customers could opt for a refund of their ticket fares. Customers were advised to contact their airlines or travel agents for more information.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service said Matthew, designated as a Category 4 hurricane late Thursday morning, has a chance to be the strongest hurricane to hit Florida in years.