— NEW YORK (AP) — Hurricane Sandy grounded thousands of flights in the U.S. northeast Monday and upended travel plans across the globe, stranding passengers from Hong Kong to Europe. The massive storm threatens to bring a near halt to air travel for at least two days in a key region for both domestic and international flights.
Major carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta cancelled all flights into and out of three area airports in New York, the nation's busiest airspace. According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, nearly 7,500 flights had been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm.
Delays rippled across the U.S., affecting travelers in cities such as San Francisco to Chicago. Disruptions spread to Europe and Asia, where airlines canceled or delayed flights to New York and Washington from cities that are major travel hubs including London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Businessman Alan Shrem was trying to return home to Boca Raton, Florida. His Monday morning Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to New York's Kennedy airport was canceled.
He learned he could be stuck in Hong Kong for nearly a week because the next available seat was Nov. 4. He was put on a waiting list for seats that could become available earlier.
"They just say: Yeah, it's a pretty big waiting list," said Shrem, throwing up his hands. In the meantime, he'll have to fork out $400 a night to continue staying at a nearby hotel. The airline won't pay for accommodation for stranded passengers if delays are weather related.
Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is about 310 miles (505 kilometers) southeast of New York City, and the center of the storm is expected to be near the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday night. The National Hurricane Center said early Monday that the storm has top sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), with higher gusts. Sandy is on track to collide with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.