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Airports closing Friday and thousands of flights canceled through Sunday ahead of Irma

Hurricane Irma is now a category 5 storm

Hurricane Irma has maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, says NOAA. Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Leeward Islands and Irma is also expected to affect Puerto Rico & the British and U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday.
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Hurricane Irma has maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, says NOAA. Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Leeward Islands and Irma is also expected to affect Puerto Rico & the British and U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

Airports are preparing to close Friday night as Hurricane Irma nears South Florida.

Fort Lauderdale Hollywood-International Airport said Thursday that the last flight from FLL will depart at 7:45 p.m. Friday; after that time, operations at the airport will cease. The airport will close for business Saturday and Sunday.

Miami International Airport remains open, but American Airlines, the largest carrier at MIA, will cancel all flights after 6:40 p.m. Friday. The airport said it will “only close if severe damage or safety concerns from Hurricane Irma result in stranded passengers and non-essential airport employees being evacuated to nearby shelters after the storm.”

Neither FLL nor MIA are designated shelters and parking garages at both airports are at capacity.

Fort Lauderdale will begin operating buses between Terminals 1 and 2 on the upper level at 1 p.m. Friday with hourly departures to designated shelters for stranded passengers. The buses will transport passengers to Fox Trail Elementary School at 1250 Nob Hill Road in Davie.

Both airports are posting updates on the storm and flights on Twitter at @iflymia and @FLLFlyer.

For travelers affected by the closures and cancellations, here is what you need to know:

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C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Flight cancellations

As of Friday morning, Miami International Airport 271 departures and 324 arrivals — 595 flights total — had been canceled because of Hurricane Irma.

Fort Lauderdale had 302 flight cancellations as of Friday afternoon.

American Airlines flights to Antigua, Antigua; St. Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis; St. Thomas and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands were canceled through Wednesday — plus two dozen cancellations for flights Thursday and Friday. Flights to Key West, San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos were canceled through Thursday. And flights to St. Maarten, Saint Maarten were canceled through Friday.

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C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

American canceled all flights for Saturday and Sunday. The airline said the last flight out of Miami will depart to Newark, New Jeresy at 6:37 p.m. Friday. The last inbound Miami flight on American will be a Chicago flight at 12:38 p.m. Friday.

On Friday, American added seven extra flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale: four to Dallas/Fort Worth and one to Charlotte from Miami, and one to Charlotte and one to New York’s LaGuardia Airport from Fort Lauderdale.

American said that many flights are already sold out, and customers should only go to the airport if they have a confirmed ticket.

The airline canceled 600 flights out of Florida Friday. Another 830 flights are canceled Saturday, 875 flights are canceled Sunday and 240 flights are canceled Monday.

Change fees for airlines

▪ American Airlines

American Airlines, which has a large hub at Miami International Airport, is waiving change fees for flights to or from Miami, Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Key West, Melbourne, Orlando, Tampa, Palm Beach, Destin/Fort Walton, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Sarasota for travel through Sept. 17.

Satellite images from GOES16 Geostationary Lightning Mapper show lightning intensifying in Hurricane Irma's eyewall.

Change fees are waived as long as tickets were purchased by Tuesday, new tickets are valid for travel through Sept. 30 as long as passengers don’t change their origin or destination cities.

The airline is also waiving change fees for travel to Charleston and Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia through Sept. 17 for tickets purchased by Wednesday.

In the Bahamas and Cuba, change fee waivers are in effect for travel through Sept. 12 to or from Exuma, Freeport, Marsh Harbour, Nassau, North Eleuthera and San Salvador, Bahamas; and Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Havana, Holguin, Cuba, Santa Clara and Varadero, Cuba.

On Thursday, American Airlines added 16 extra flights from Miami for travelers fleeing Hurricane Irma.

In the Caribbean, American Airlines change fee waivers are in effect for flights through Saturday to or from Anguilla Wallblake, Anguilla; Antigua, Antigua; Beef Island, British Virgin Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Croix and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. Kitts, St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Maarten. Saint Maarten; Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos; and Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago, Dominican Republic.

▪ JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways waiving fees and fare increases for passengers flying to or from Aguadilla, Ponce and San Juan, Puterto Rico; Puerto Plato, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago, Dominican Republic; Havana, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin, Cuba; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos; Nassau, Bahamas; Antigua, Antigua; St. Croix and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and St. Maarten, Saint. Maarten through Wednesday, the airline said.

Change fees are waived for JetBlue travel in and out of Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia through Wednesday.

▪ Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines is offering waived change fees through Tuesday for flights to Punta Cana and Santiago, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Croix and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. Maarten, Saint Maarten; and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

Flights to the following cities will apply for Delta fee waivers through Sept. 30: Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Fort Walton Beach, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Key West, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando, Panama City, Pensacola, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater, West Palm Beach; Brunswick and Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Freeport, Georgetown, Marsh Harbour and Nassau, Bahamas; and Havana, Cuba.

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C.M. GUERRERIO cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

▪ United Airlines

Travel waivers are also in effect for United Airlines flights to Aguadilla and San Juan, Puerto Rico; Havana, Cuba; Nassau, Bahamas; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos; Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago, Dominican Republic; Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Jacksonville, Orlando, Panama City, Pensacola, Tampa and Fort Myers through Tuesday.

▪ Southwest Airlines

For travelers on Southwest Airlines, change fees have been waived for flights through Sept. 17 to or from Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, West Palm Beach in the U.S. and Havana, Cuba; Nassau, Bahamas; Punta Cana, Domincan Republic; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

▪ Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines will waive change fees for passengers flying to or from Aguadilla and San Juan, Puerto Rico; and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands through Monday. Change fees apply through Tuesday for flights to or from Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Santo Domingo and Santiago, Dominican Republic. Travelers to or from Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa and Orlando will get change fees waived through Sept. 16. Passengers flying to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina can will get change fees waived through Sept. 19.

Miami Herald staff writer Rene Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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