POSTED: 7:36 a.m. HST, Mar 11, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 7:41 a.m. HST, Mar 11, 2011
Delta Air Lines Inc. and competing U.S. carriers United and American canceled dozens of Tokyo flights after a fatal earthquake that clogged two major airports.
The magnitude 8.9 temblor struck off the coast of northeast Japan, unleashing a tsunami as high as 10 meters (33 feet). As many as 300 people were killed.
Subsequent cancellations at Narita International Airport, Japan's main overseas gateway, stranded almost 14,000 people. At least nine flights were later scheduled for departure as carriers worked to clear the backlog.
Delta, United and American waived fees to rebook flights to Japan at least through March 14. Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. grounded flights nationwide, affecting more than 60,000 travelers.
Delta canceled 29 flights to and from Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports today, Betsy Talton, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. That's about half of the nearly 60 the airline operates at those sites daily, she said.
United canceled 10 flights and Continental Airlines grounded one, a spokeswoman said. Jeff Smisek, chief executive officer of the parent company, United Continental Holdings Inc., said all flights to Tokyo would be grounded at least for today.
Railways Not Running
"Narita airport's runway is not damaged," Smisek said in an interview in Houston. "The problem is the railway lines aren't functioning so our employees and the passengers can't get to the airport."
AMR Corp.'s American canceled four flights from Japan to the U.S., the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier said.
United, based in Chicago, and Atlanta-based Delta both offered waivers to rebook flights to Japan scheduled through March 15, while American won't charge fees for trips through March 14. Hawaiian Airlines, based in Honolulu, is offering waivers through March 18.
While flights began departing from Narita, no planes were to land there, Shohei Kagawa, a spokesman, said by telephone. There was no visible damage to runways, Ryoko Yabe, a spokeswoman, said earlier.
Tokyo's Haneda airport, Asia's second-busiest by passengers, also resumed flights after an initial shutdown.
"It is likely that flights to Japan may continue to be affected in the coming days," Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said in an e-mailed statement. The carrier advised passengers to check its website before traveling.
China Southern Airlines Co., the nation's largest carrier, canceled four Tokyo flights for March 12 and halted ticket sales for services on March 13, it said in an e-mailed statement.
British Airways canceled its Narita and Haneda flights on March 11 and the return legs on March 12, Cathy West, a spokeswoman, said by phone. Air France-KLM Group diverted a flight to Osaka and delayed takeoff for another in Paris by four and half hours, it said by e-mail.
Qantas Airways Ltd.'s Jetstar budget unit diverted two Tokyo-bound flights to Guam and Malaysian Airline System Bhd. sent one to Taipei.