ATLANTA -- Some major carriers have canceled flights to airports in New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss. -- popular destinations for tourists, conventioneers, and gamblers -- until at least next week, increasing financial pressure for the airlines as they also deal with potential fuel shortages.
Daily jet fuel production nationwide has been cut 13 percent because of damage from the hurricane to Gulf Coast refineries, said Jack Evans of the Air Transport Association.
''What it means is there is less fuel, essentially," he said yesterday. ''Carriers are having to take measures to conserve fuel at airports where they are low, and tanker in fuel when serving some destinations on the East Coast."
The New Orleans airport, meanwhile, has reopened to allow humanitarian flights during daylight hours, but officials are unsure when commercial service will resume.
They said the New Orleans airport has no significant airfield damage and no standing water in aircraft movement areas. The airport did sustain damage to its roofs, hangars, and fencing. At the Gulfport airport, which is served by five airlines, there was some damage to the control tower and to AirTran's gate area.
The flight cancellations and fuel problems come at a time when the major airlines, especially Delta, are already reeling.
''I think all of the airlines will feel this," said airline expert Terry Trippler, who runs a travel website, cheapseats.com.
The major airlines that serve the area are Delta, American, Continental, United, Northwest, US Airways, and AirTran.