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MENAFN - AFP - 29/10/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) International air travel from Europe and Asia was hit Monday by flight cancellations as much of the United States' eastern region battened down for the threatened impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Even before the hurricane crashed ashore the US after barrelling across parts of the Caribbean with fatal consequences, it had already whipped up a maelstrom of disruption on land and in the air.

After thousands of flights were axed from eastern US hubs and bus and train services suspended, safety fears over the monster storm also caused disruption as far afield as Hong Kong and France.

Air France cancelled all flights to Washington and New York, a company spokeswoman said, adding the airline was "closely monitoring the situation" of what is being dubbed "Frankenstorm".

In Britain, holiday-makers bound for the US for this week's school holidays were left stranded after British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were among the airlines to scrap all connections the US east coast, including New York and Washington.

"We understand that customers may be disappointed. However their safety is our highest priority," British Airways, which cancelled around 20 return flights, said in a statement.

Elsewhere in Europe, cancellations also hit Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as well as Rome-Fiumicino, Frankfurt Airport, which is Germany's busiest hub, and Geneva and Zurich airports in Switzerland.

However Zurich airport seemed to have been spared "mass passenger layovers" as some cancellations had been announced the day before, press officer Jasmin Bodmer told AFP adding it was unclear if the disruption would go into Tuesday.

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, Eurocontrol, said 300 of the usual around 500 flights between Europe and the US had been cancelled with more expected later Monday.

In Asia, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific announced it was scrapping a total of eight direct flights between the southern Chinese city and New York on Monday and Tuesday.

"We are responding to the recommendation of the airport authority of the John F. Kennedy International Airport in cancelling our flights and it is possible that we may face further disruption," the airline said.

Air India said it had scrubbed both of its daily flights to the US.

"We are waiting for the US authorities to issue alerts once the weather changes and it is safe to fly," K. Swaminathan, Air India's corporate communications manager told AFP.

Flights from Japan were not immune either.

The flight information centre of Tokyo's Narita airport said one Japan Airlines flight to New York and one All Nippon Airways flight each to New York and Washington had been cancelled.

In the US, more than 7,400 flights out of east coast hubs were grounded while Amtrak suspended all bus and train services up and down the coast.

Subway services, buses and commuter trains were also shut down in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.


 






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