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Irene 'No Worse Than Snowstorm' To Airlines: Analyst

The coming of Hurricane Irene may be a threat to the average person but to the airlines it's a nonevent, Dahlman Rose airline analyst Helane Becker told CNBC Friday.

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"It's nothing worse than a snowstorm that might hit the East Coast" in terms of the disruption of flight schedules and vacation plans by the approaching hurricane, she said.  

With the Category 2 storm nearing landfall as soon as Saturday, "people in the middle of their trips may push forward to return home early or push back to return home a few days late, and if you are starting a trip maybe rescheduling it altogether," Becker said, lessening the financial impact to the airlines.

"By and large the airlines let you change your flights" although there "aren’t too many refunds," she said.

A Category 2 storm packs winds of 96 to 110 miles per hour on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

Jetblue , with hubs in Boston and New York, began cancelling flights Thursday. Other airlines that could be affected by the disruptions along the East Coast, she said, include US Airways , AMR's American Airlines, United Continental and Delta.

She said the financial damage to airlines depends on how many flights are cancelled and how long it takes them to recover.

"That’s why airlines cancel so quickly, to have planes in position to recover quickly," she said.


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Helane Becker does not own shares. Dahlman Rose owns more than 1 percent of the shares of JetBlue and United Continental.