United suspends all Newark flights: What to do if you’re flying through the NYC area right now

Sep 2, 2021

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Update 9/2/21 3 p.m. ET: United has restarted Newark operations with a very limited flight schedule. Be sure to check your flight’s status, and read on for more tips on what to do if you’re flying through the NYC area right now.

In case you missed it, the remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through the New York City area on Wednesday.

The storm brought heavy rain, flooding and winds to the streets of Manhattan and the nearby suburbs. Though the radar has cleared up as of Thursday morning, getting around the metro area remains at best a massive inconvenience and at worst dangerous. Many streets remain flooded, and much of the subway and commuter rail system is largely suspended.

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And, if your Labor Day Weekend plans included a stop at one of the region’s three major airports, JFK, Newark or LaGuardia, you might want to check your flight status. At Newark, nearly 40% of flights have already been canceled on Thursday, according to live data from FlightAware. Viral social media videos from Wednesday night show severe flooding at both Newark and LaGuardia.

United Airlines, which operates its largest East Coast hub in Newark, suspended all flight activity there until 3 p.m. local time, at the earliest. Plus, the airport’s Customs and Border Control facility was closed on Thursday morning, giving international flights no option other than to divert to nearby airports.

Suffice to say, you’ll want to pack your patience if you’re hitting the road today. Here are some other tips to consider as well.

Postpone your flight

This one’s simple. If your travel plans are flexible, it might pay to postpone your flight until Friday or later in the weekend.

Most airlines, including the Big 3 U.S. carriers, along with New York-based JetBlue, have issued limited-time flexible travel waivers to make it easy to switch flights.

Though the particular waiver details differ by each airline, you’ll be able to change your flight without any fees or a fare difference. Alternatively, you can cancel your ticket and collect a refund if your flight was canceled or significantly delayed.

Reroute your journey

Flexibility is the name of the game if you’re committed to hitting the road on Thursday.

Since Newark appears to have suffered the worst of the region’s three major airports, you might have better luck rerouting through LaGuardia or JFK.

You can also consider some other nearby regional airports, like White Plains (HPN) or Newburgh (SWF). Alternatively, if you’re based in New Jersey, you might want to look at flight options from Philadelphia (PHL).

Arrive early

Before heading to the airport, you’ll want to check your flight status. If your flight is canceled, then rebook at home before heading out to avoid long lines and overwhelmed customer service agents.

Assuming that your flight is on time, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of extra time throughout the journey. As airlines recover from the storm, there are lots of displaced passengers (along with crew) to reaccommodate. Lines will be longer than normal, and security wait times could creep up as well.

As of press time, there was a nearly 30-minute wait to clear security at Newark’s Terminal A, and that number could creep up as airlines rebuild their schedules later in the day.

Pack lightly

Much of the flooding at the region’s airports appears to have impacted the below-wing operations, including the baggage claim and sorting facilities.

As such, it could make sense to leave your checked bag at home. Some of the equipment may have been damaged during the storm, which could cause longer-than-normal waits at the baggage claim. Airlines are likely still unloading and sorting through the checked bags from canceled flights on Wednesday, so adding more on Thursday might overwhelm the system.

If I was hitting the road today, I’d do everything in my power to travel with hand luggage only.

Featured photo by Megan Dervin-Ackerman.

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