Thousands of British tourists are stranded in U.S. airports due to a backlog of flights arising from closures related to Hurricane Irene.
According to reports, these weary travelers may be stuck for days as airlines stagger to get back on schedule.
The three major airports in the New York City area, John F. Kennedy International Airport, La Guardia Airport and Newark International Airport, were all closed during the hurricane that swept up the eastern coast of the U.S. over the weekend.
On the whole, about 9,000 airplanes were rendered inactive by the storm.
Two UK air carriers, British Airways and Virgin, have begun adding additional flights, but BA warned it may take a few days to relieve the bottleneck.
A BA spokesperson told BBC: It's the peak time of year for travel. People are coming back from summer holidays to start school, so flights are full anyway. Combine that with having to cancel flights and it will certainly take a few days to ensure everyone gets away. We have a finite number of aircraft we can deploy and we're looking to put on extra flights. Our priority is to maximize the number of people we can get on board.
Virgin Atlantic said it will not accept any stand-by passengers.
We can confirm that we are now operating a full flying schedule to and from the east coast of the United States,” as spokesman told BBC.
Additional seats will also be made available to ensure that the backlog of passengers away from home is cleared as soon as possible.
On its website, Virgin stated: “We are focusing all our energy on a recovery plan to bring people back home. Because flights are already very full it will be a little while before everybody is accommodated. We have arranged additional flights however if you have already been re booked on a flight due to leave in the next 3 days i.e. up to and including Thursday 1 September please do not call us. We will not be able to bring you home any sooner so please check in for your new flight as usual.”
UK holidaymakers are also believed to be stranded in Baltimore and Boston, two other major cities impacted by the storm.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reportedly estimated that up to 10,000 British travelers may be in New York at present. A spokesman for ABTA told BBC that because the flight delays were caused by a natural disaster, the airlines would not be obliged to pay for the passengers’ daily expenses, including food and accommodation.