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How Airlines Are Coping With Tropical Storm Isaac

For U.S. based airlines, Tropical Storm Isaac has been more of a nuisance than a major operational headache.

Hurricane Isaac bears down on Florida.
Getty Images
Hurricane Isaac bears down on Florida.

While more than a 1,000 flights have been cancelled, there have been relatively few reports of stranded passengers stuck in airports. Credit the fact airlines have become more skilled at planning how to bring down their schedules when major storms hit the United States.

On the 27th floor of the Willis Tower in downtown Chicago the network operations leaders at United Airlines have been meeting three times a day to assess the path of Isaac and reroute passengers, crews and airplanes to stay out of the eye of storm.

FlightAware.com says a total of 857 flights were cancelled Sunday in the gulf region. American Airlines bore the brunt of the cancellations due to the fact it has a hub in Miami. Both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airport were closed Sunday evening into Monday morning as Isaac skirted to the south. By late Monday morning both airports were operating on slightly limited schedules.

United Airlines, with a smaller presence in the gulf region, cancelled 26 flights over the weekend and is assessing its schedule for New Orleans. (Read More: Isaac Heads For Gulf Coast, Hurricane Warning Issued.)

Alex Marren, the Senior Vice President of Network Operations for United explained the decision making process involving Isaac. “Generally in the 24-48 hour period ahead of the storm we make the decision. Do we pull down the schedule? How many flights do we pull down? Can we get it back up?"

Isaac is the first major storm to hit the U.S. this hurricane season. For the most part, the airlines have had a relatively quiet year when it comes to dealing with storms. In fact, Wall Street has not had to make many adjustments to quarterly earnings because of lost revenue related to a hurricane or blizzard — and with Isaac, few expect a substantial impact. (Read More: 10 Most Expensive Hurricanes in US History.)

Maxim Group airline analyst Ray Neidl says, "Even a bad hurricane if it hit your hub, if you are prepared for it, probably wouldn’t hurt you more than 5 to 10 cents for the quarter. But if it doesn’t directly hit your hub the damage to earnings should be minimal."

-By CNBC's Phil LeBeau
@LeBeauCarNews

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