Allegiant cancels Knoxville flights to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando ahead of Hurricane Matthew

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 13, 2016 file photo, a small plane with a banner flies over Flint Bishop Airport to celebrate the ribbon cutting for Allegiant Air joining Flint Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich. Discount airline Allegiant Air is set to land at Newark Liberty International Airport. Allegiant has been given final approval to begin offering service at the airport in November. Tickets can be purchased beginning Tuesday, June 28, some for as low as $39 one-way. (Conor Ralph/The Flint Journal- via AP, File)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Airlines are canceling hundreds of flights as Hurricane Matthew sweeps along the Florida coast.

Allegiant has already cancelled flights from McGhee Tyson Airport to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando Thursday because of Hurricane Matthew. Allegiant said vacation packages booked through them will be refunded automatically if the flight involved was cancelled

The Fort Lauderdale airport shut down on Thursday morning, and further north the Orlando airport expected to do the same by nighttime. By midday, flight-tracking service reported that nearly 1,500 flights within the U.S. had been scrapped, with the largest numbers at Fort Lauderdale and Miami. American Airlines, which has a major hub in Miami, was the hardest-hit carrier, followed by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways. FlightAware says airlines have already canceled nearly 1,300 flights scheduled for Friday.

Some passengers coming from Florida are now having to buy new tickets and change their destinations because of the storm.

“It’s been kind of a crazy roller coaster today,” said Charles Shafer, a passenger traveling from Florida.

Shafer’s flight out of Orlando to Knoxville was cancelled last night.

“I had to fly out of Tampa Bay, which is three hours from the house,” said Shafer.

Shafer was not the only one who is getting on new flights in Florida.

“Wednesday morning I called and got on a 10:30 out today,” said Clint Wisdom, another passenger flying from Florida.

McGhee Tyson Airport is continuing to check weather advisories to see if more flights will be cancelled.

“We recommend checking your flight status on or through our mobile app,” said Caitlin Darras, a spokesperson for the airport.

Some passengers are avoiding flights to the area all together.

“We decided it might not be the best thing to do this weekend,” said Nikki Marsh.

Marsh’s family reunion to North Carolina was moved to Knoxville.

“We saw earlier in this week how bad it was going to be. So we kind of scrambled to rearrange travel,” said Marsh.

Continuing coverage: Hurricane Matthew

Airlines often cancel flights before storms hit to prevent passengers from being stranded at airports and to keep their planes in position to recover after the bad weather passes.

More: Check flight times online for McGhee Tyson Airport

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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