Even before landfall, Hurricane Irma’s presence was being felt by fliers in the United States. 

Thousands of flights have been canceled in Florida – many preemptively – amid a rush of fliers trying to flee the state ahead of Irma’s possible landfall this weekend. Airlines expanded their change-fee waivers to include airports as far north as the Carolinas.

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On the ground, fliers faced looming disruptions. 

Miami’s airport is open for now, though its primary tenant – American Airlines – said it will halt its schedule there by 4 p.m. Friday. Fort Lauderdale — the metro area’s second busiest airport — said all flights there will end Friday at 7:45 p.m. Farther north, Orlando’s busy international airport will suspend its flight operations Saturday afternoon. Key West’s airport halted flights on Thursday, a day later than the airport originally said.

TODAY IN THE SKYHurricane Irma: Airline change-fee waivers now extend from Florida into South Carolina


Other airports in South Florida may have to suspend flights, too, if Irma moves across the state as current forecasts suggest. 

Even now, Irma was snarling flights in the Sunshine State. More than 2,000 flights had already been canceled for Friday and Saturday –most announced preemptively by Thursday evening. Combined with cancellations in the Caribbean, more than 4,600 flights have been axed since Irma began affecting flights. 

Heading into the weekend, fliers should expect cancellation totals to spike as more flights are grounded by Irma’s approach. 

The mounting tally of grounded flights has complicated efforts for those trying to flee Florida by plane. Most remaining flights had sold out by Thursday evening, and images posted to social media showed airport terminals packed by those trying to find one of the few seats remaining to get out of the area. 

To try to help, airlines added dozens of flights and thousands of extra seats to airports in South Florida to try to help people leave. 

American Airlines said it added 16 flights from Miami to Dallas, New York and Philadelphia — a total of 3,600 seats. Delta also said it increased capacity out of Florida, using a combination of bigger planes and extra, unscheduled flights. Delta said it…