United Airlines suspends operations at Houston airport into Thursday

United Airlines is finding Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath to be an increasingly monumental nightmare at one of its key hubs, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.Late today United said it has suspended all operations at the Houston airport through midday on Thursday, Aug. 31.Initially, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closed Houston George Bush Intercontinental airport Sunday morning and said the airport would reopen early Monday afternoon.But that was before rain continued to fall in historic amounts and Harvey devolved into a stalled tropical storm that could hang over Houston for days to come.Weather reports indicated 34 inches of rain had fallen in Houston as of this morning, with as many as 3 to 5 inches more predicted to fall today. More rain is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday, as observers start to compare Harvey to Hurricane Katrina, which brought widespread devastation to New Orleans and killed more than 1,000 people.Late Monday, however, United said the Houston hub airport would not reopen “at least” until noon Central Time on Thursday, Aug. 31 “due to severe weather and unsafe road conditions near the airport.”The protracted closure of George Bush Intercontinental and worsening weather have forced United to take some unusual measures. The airline flew a widebody Boeing 777 into the airport on Sunday with United staff and supplies aboard to help prepare for resuming operations.Two more United 777s were expected to depart for Houston today carrying hundreds more personnel and additional provisions. What United can’t know at this point, however, is how many of the airline’s Houston-based ground staff and cabin crews will be able to access the airport when operations resume.While many scheduled daily flights from Houston are not likely to depart on the day operations resume, those flights that do operate will have to leave with the necessary crew and food and beverages on board. United typically has 480 daily departures at its Houston hub. Even as United continues the emergency airlifts to Houston, the airline is dealing with a large number of international flights coming into Houston that either didn’t operate in recent days or were diverted to other United hubs, including Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. or Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey.A United spokesman today said some passengers on those flights were put up in hotels at United’s expense or were assisted in making new reservations to get them to their final destinations where possible on United or other carriers.Still, if United’s operations in Houston remain completely shut down for five � or more � days during the evolving weather crisis, the carrier surely will face a humongous task dealing with tens of thousands of customers who couldn’t get to where they wanted to be while Harvey hung over Houston.A United spokesman this morning again pointed out that the airline has issued a generous travel waiver now running through Sept. 5, that will allow United customers to change reservations on United flights with no rebooking fees.

Source: Civil Aviation Authority, Qatar

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