September 22, 2017
The first airline flights to hurricane-battered Puerto Rico arrived Friday, but difficult conditions at the island's main airport caused airlines to scale back plans for more flights over the weekend.
Two American Airlines planes from Miami and one from Philadelphia arrived at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport Friday morning. The flights carried relief supplies and federal airport screeners to help staff security checkpoints at the airport, an airline spokesman said.
Another plane got halfway to Puerto Rico before returning to Miami because the San Juan airport couldn't handle another plane.
President Donald Trump tweeted thanks to American and CEO Doug Parker "for all of the help you have given to the U.S. with Hurricane flights. Fantastic job!"
Two JetBlue Airways planes with relief supplies — one of them also carrying New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — also landed on the island, a JetBlue spokesman said.
All power to Puerto Rico was knocked out by Hurricane Maria. By late afternoon Friday, no commercial flights had left San Juan because of the logistical obstacles at the airport. With no power, screeners were inspecting carry-on and checked bags by hand.
American planned a single round trip from Philadelphia on Saturday and again Sunday, but was not yet selling seats on those flights by Friday afternoon.
Delta Air Lines said it would fly relief workers and supplies from Atlanta on a single flight Saturday and take passengers off the island on the return trip while canceling other flights. It plans to operate a single round trip on Sunday.
Delta cited an "unfavorable" assessment of the San Juan airport and surrounding area, plus the airport's decision to limit operations to 10 flights per day, rising to 20 by Monday.
Southwest Airlines planned limited service to San Juan on Saturday. United Airlines said it was still assessing the situation.
Panama's Copa Airlines suspended San Juan service until Sept. 30.
U.S. airlines were also waiting to resume service to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands — Delta said it could restart Sunday — and to the Dutch-French island of St. Martin, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma. Spirit Airlines flew a single relief flight to St. Martin on Friday.