MIAMI – Miami International Airport (search) reopened to domestic flights Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Wilma, but the biggest carrier there only expected to operate about half its flights. West Palm Beach's airport also opened, but Fort Lauderdale's was still closed.
Miami is the busiest U.S. hub for Latin American travel and lines were beginning to form by Wednesday morning as more people tried to get on flights. Although several flights have arrived and left, the airport looked far from fully operational with some employees still standing around and waiting.
The nation's largest airline, American Airlines (search), is the airport's biggest carrier. The unit of AMR Corp. typically flies 500 flights a day into and out of Miami, but the carrier said Tuesday operations there would run at 50 percent until aircraft and crews flown out before the hurricane arrived are back in place.
Officials at the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Jennifer Combs was trying Wednesday to get on a Delta Air Lines Inc. (search) flight to Hawaii to help her best friend celebrate her first wedding anniversary. She was supposed to leave Tuesday, was on her third flight change and still didn't know when she would leave.
"We just can't seem to get out of here," Combs said. "It's very frustrating. I just feel bad. I see people sitting on the floor sleeping, I'm sure they've been here a long time."
The first plane to land in Miami since Monday's hurricane arrived from Brazil on Tuesday night. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Southwest Airlines Co.'s hub for South Florida, remained closed to commercial traffic but emergency aircraft were coming into both facilities.
"Our main problem right now is water pressure, because it's an integral part of our fire safety system," Fort Lauderdale airport spokesman Steve Belleme said. "That's mandatory before we can have passengers in the building."
No decision has been made on when commercial flights would be able to return, he said. Roof damage still needs to be repaired in many of the airport's four terminals, but the instrument landing system and runway lights are working, he said.
Palm Beach International Airport appeared to have about half its flights scheduled for the day operating, according to its Web site. Officials there did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The airline disruptions in Florida caused a minor ripple effect of flight delays and cancellations in other parts of the country, but industry officials said the impact was limited because carriers had several days to prepare before Wilma made landfall.
In the Florida Keys, Marathon Airport reopened Tuesday. Key West International's terminal was open and runways were clear of debris, and were to begin accommodating emergency aircraft Wednesday. No start date for resumption of commercial service has been announced.
The hurricane also wreaked havoc at some Florida municipal and commercial airports and made others inaccessible by downing trees on access roads. Boca Raton lost most of its hangars, and Hollywood-North Perry sustained extensive damage to its tower and roof.
Elsewhere, five cruise ships also returned to the Port of Miami on Wednesday, after spending an extra two days at sea because the world's largest cruise terminal was closed due to Wilma.