News Americas, CHARLOTTE, NC, Thurs. Aug. 27, 2015: Airlines were taking no chances Wednesday with several including American and US Airways cancelling flights to the Caribbean as Tropical Storm Erika took aim at several islands in the region. Several regional airlines including LIAT, Seaborne and Win Air also grounded regional flights as the storm approached.
A direct American Airlines flight out of Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Marten, scheduled for Thursday, was cancelled Wednesday afternoon ahead of the storm which was set to reach the island and neighboring St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustacius, Anguilla and St. Barthelemy last night.
The cancellations left passengers clogging customer service lines trying to make flight changes.
“Due to weather, US Airways is offering the following flexibility options to ticketed customers whose travel may be impacted by this event. Customers ticketed to travel on US/US* or AA/AA* flights departing from the airports listed below may change flights as shown below. If you are traveling to/through/from: Antigua, Antiqua and Barbuda (ANU), Pointe A Pitre, GP (PTP), San Juan, PR (SJU), St. Croix, VI (STX), St. Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis (SKB), St. Maarten, St Maarten (SXM), St. Thomas, VI (STT) on the following dates: August 26, 27 or 28, 2015 and your ticket was issued no later than: August 25, 2015 you may travel: August 25, 2015 – August 31, 2015,” an US Airways advisory stated.
JetBlue also cancelled its flights for Thursday, August 27 and Friday, August 28, 2015.
Expedia, the popular booking site, saw its server suffering under the heavy traffic even as its customer lines left callers with extensive wait times trying to change hotel reservations.
The cancellations came as the National Hurricane Center of Miami said Tropical Storm Erika was expected to increase in speed and strength its center is on track to move near or over portions of the Leeward Islands as well as near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Thursday. It could be near or just north of the north coast of the Dominican Republic on Friday.
Maximum sustained winds were near 45 mph with higher gusts expected.
The government of the Dominican Republic on Wednesday issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Cabo Frances Viejo while the government of the Bahamas issued a Tropical Storm Watc for the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
A Tropical Storm Warning last night remained in effect for Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Erika is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 3 to 5 inches with maximum amounts of 8 inches across portions of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic through Friday.