Massive storms hit airlines where it hurts: Their hubs

Key Points
  • Airlines canceled more than 25,000 flights because of storms Harvey, Irma
  • Limited operations to Florida airports resumed on Monday
  • Extensive planning may help soften Irma's impact on travelers
  • Miami, Atlanta and Houston are hubs of the biggest US airlines
American Airlines lowers outlook for key revenue metric
American Airlines lowers outlook for key revenue metric

Hurricane season hasn't been kind to airlines.

Carriers cancelled more than 25,000 flights as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to plane tracker Flight Aware, a total exacerbated by where the storms struck: hubs of the largest U.S. carriers.

American Airlines on Tuesday lowered its revenue projection for this quarter to no more than a 1 percent year-on-year rise from a forecast last month of as much as a 2.5 percent increase due to the storm.

"It's more painful. There's no question," said Samuel Engel, who heads the aviation division at consulting firm ICF. Hubs are not just centers for flights but "for maintenance and and crew."

More than 10,000 flights were cancelled due to Hurricane Harvey after flooding in Houston, where United Airlines and Southwest Airlines operate hubs. Last week United said the storm, which also drove up fuel prices, would cost it $400 million in third-quarter revenue.

American Airlines said Tuesday that it has resumed operations at its hub in Miami and other Florida airports, which restarted operations on a limited basis. Miami International Airport, Florida's largest, said it suffered water damage from Hurricane Irma over the weekend and that about 30 percent of the some 1,100 flights that it handles a day were operating on Tuesday.

Irma, which made landfall on Florida as a major hurricane on Sunday, grounded more than 14,000 flights, 10,000 of those in Florida. Heavy winds and rain from the storm also forced Delta to cancel flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport.

Delta, United and JetBlue also said would resume limited operations to and from Florida airports on Tuesday.

The final financial toll on airlines isn't clear but because of forecasting, carriers were able to plan, by moving planes out of affected areas and onto other routes, unlike during one of the sudden system outages or computer glitches that have plagued airlines in recent years. The biggest logistical challenge for airlines this week, Engel said, is getting crew in place to service the storm-hit airports.

WATCH: Irma disrupts the logistics of airline operations

Hurricane Irma disrupting the logistics of airline operations
Hurricane Irma disrupting the logistics of airline operations