Airlines are letting ticketed travelers change their plans at no fee
New York officials say they'll decide Sunday about suspending subway service
Amtrak cancels several trains that originate or end in East Coast stations
Planes, trains and automobiles – all these modes of transportation were affected Saturday by Hurricane Sandy, even with the storm many hours away from making landfall.
The storm is expected to cause massive flooding and widespread power outages when it hits the East Coast, in full, late Sunday and into next week. But before that happens, transportation companies and government officials are allowing – and, in some cases, urging – people to plan for the worst.
A number of airlines, for example, are allowing customers to change their flight plans without paying any fees due to Sandy.
Delta will let those ticketed to fly between Sunday and Wednesday, in and out of airports in 15 states and the District of Columbia, to reschedule by November 4. United’s offer applies to travel to-and-from 29 airports, for the same dates.
Other airlines, such as American, are offering a similar process, with slight variations. And at least in U.S. Airways’ case, the weather is already keeping airlines busy: The airline apologized to customers on its Twitter feed for long waits to get through to agents due to a high call volume tied to Sandy.
Amtrak announced Saturday that it will cancel some of its train runs on Sunday to and from Richmond and Newport News, Virginia; Chicago and Washington; Miami and New York; and Washington and New York. In addition, a train scheduled to run Monday between Washington and Chicago will also remain in the station.
“Passengers are encouraged to travel on earlier available trains on Sunday,” Amtrak said in a news release. “Additional cancellations might be necessary in the coming days as this major storm moves north.”
Even New York’s vaunted, round-the-clock subway system could shut down due to flooding and other issues tied to the storm.
Officials say they’ll decide Sunday whether to suspend service on the subway, as well as on buses and commuter rail, depending on Sandy proceeds. For now, New Yorkers should plan their lives as if such a suspension will happen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“New Yorkers need to take action now to protect themselves, and as the transportation system prepares to possibly suspend service, no one should wait until the last minute to prepare,” said Cuomo, who has declared a state of emergency in the state.
Meanwhile, New Jersey is taking steps to shut down NJ Transit bus, rail and Access Link service on Monday – much as it did last year for 36 hours due to Hurricane Irene.
“By beginning this important process, NJ Transit will be better able to support the state’s response to Hurricane Sandy by freeing up buses or other resources that may be needed for hurricane relief,” Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said in a press release.
For all the potential headaches at airports, train stations and bus terminals, the type of transportation affected first and most directly by Sandy may be boating. All along the East Coast, meteorologists and officials have warned people to steer clear of the seas because of potentially perilous high winds and large waves tied to the storm.
Pam and Bob Haigh, a Rhode Island couple, were surprised – given how late it is in the hurricane season – that Sandy has delayed their plans to sail from Maryland to the Florida Keys.
But they know that this isn’t the first time that Mother Nature has affected travel plans – nor will it be the last.
“We’ve got a surprise, so we’ll just ride it out,” Pam Haigh said. “There’s not much else we can do.”