SAN FRANCISCO -- With Hurricane Sandy bearing down, Bay Area travelers expecting to board flights to New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other East Coast cities Monday probably aren't going anywhere, officials said.
Major airlines canceled thousands of flights scheduled for Sunday and Monday, and more could be scrapped if the hurricane causes heavy damage.
At San Francisco International Airport, flights bound for the affected areas were canceled starting at around 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon as the airlines did their best to move planes out of the storm's path, according to Duty Manager Dan Dinnocenti.
"For the airports that are involved, all those flights will be canceled (Monday)," Dinnocenti said. Depending on how long the hurricane takes to clear the area and what sort of damage hits the affected airports, flights could be back by Tuesday or delayed even longer, he said.
"We're just gonna have to keep our fingers crossed," he added.
Flights were also canceled from Oakland and San Jose to the affected cities, including Washington D.C., Baltimore, Raleigh, N.C., Hartford, Ct., and more. Online service FlightAware estimated that almost 7,000 flights had been canceled nationwide as of Sunday morning.
Many airlines were offering to waive change fees for passengers forced to delay travel as a result of the storm.
Flights to the East Coast could resume several hours before the affected airports are actually reopened, Dinnocenti said, allowing for operations to resume while planes are in the air.
"The airlines want to get back to normal as quickly as possible," he said. "It's just a question of when they say the airports are safe again."
Until then, he said, SFO will be using every available bit of space for overflow plane parking, as jets await the all-clear to resume flying.
For updated departure and arrival information, go to http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-airports.