Hurricane Irene hits UK airline flights to US

Passengers at JFK airport in New York
Image caption Passengers have been warned they may have to wait several days before they can return from the US

Hurricane Irene has caused flights from the UK to be cancelled after hitting the east coast of the US.

The storm brought winds of more than 85mph (140km/h) to North Carolina and a quarter of a million people have been told to evacuate New York city.

British Airways has cancelled all its flights between London and New York for the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday.

The Foreign Office has advised Britons caught up in the hurricane to follow the advice of the local authorities.

British nationals should leave the area if advised, it added.

Closed down

British Airways said it was keeping the progress of Hurricane Irene under "constant review".

A spokeswoman said: "Due to the predicted impact of the storm, we have taken the decision to cancel a significant number of services to the eastern seaboard.

"Flights to and from New York JFK and Newark will be particularly badly affected after the local authorities made a decision to completely close the airports for much of the weekend."

A statement on the BA website said: "As Hurricane Irene moves towards the east coast of the USA we are starting to cancel flights to and from a number of US cities.

"Please check the status of your flight before leaving for the airport."

BA axed flights to the Bahamas earlier this week as a result of the hurricane.

'Recovery plan'

Virgin Atlantic has cancelled flights to and from New York as well as some Boston services over the weekend.

The airline warned that some people might have to wait more than three to four days to return home from the US.

"We are focusing all our energy on a recovery plan to bring people back home. Because flights are already very full it will be a little while before everybody is accommodated," it said.

The Foreign Office said travellers could monitor the progress of the hurricane on the US National Hurricane Center website, the Met Office's StormTracker, and local and international weather reports.

The overall level of travel advice to the US had not changed and there were no restrictions in place, it added.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said up to 10,000 British holidaymakers could currently be in New York.

New York was the single most popular long-haul destination in the world for Britons, the organisation said.

States of emergency

An Abta spokesman said: "If anyone can't get back on their original flight and they're booked with a European airline, the airline will make sure they're looked after with nights in hotels and day-to-day expenses so people won't be out of pocket.

"People on package tours will be in the same position."

Irish airline Aer Lingus said all flights scheduled to operate between the Republic of Ireland and New York and Boston on Sunday had been cancelled.

The carrier said passengers, who are being kept informed by text and email, could change their travel dates on its website.

In total, more than two million people in the US have been ordered to leave their homes ahead of the massive category one storm.

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that Irene remained a "large and dangerous" storm.

A first death caused by the hurricane has been reported in North Carolina.

States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

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