Miami Airport Reopens After Being Shut By Hurricane Wilma

Miami International Airport reopened to domestic flights Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Wilma, but the biggest carrier there expected to operate only half its flights.

West Palm Beach's airport also opened, but Fort Lauderdale's remained closed.

Lines were forming Wednesday morning at Miami International, the busiest U.S. hub for Latin American travel. Although several flights 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, 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 were 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. 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 needed 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.


AP Business writer John Pain contributed to this report.

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