Flights improving despite fires

Flights improving despite fires

Flights into Southern California are returning to normal after operations resumed at an air traffic control center near San Diego that had been evacuated over the weekend when smoke from wildfires entered the facility.

Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport reported no delays due to air traffic control issues, a spokeswoman for the airports said.

San Diego International Airport's Web site said it is still open but added that airlines serving it are operating with reduced schedules.

Los Angeles International, one of the nation's largest airports, is only operating at slightly more than 50 percent of capacity, with about 40 arrivals and departures per hour, compared to the normal total of 70.

Officials likened the disruption to the backlogs suffered by East Coast airports after a heavy snowstorm, and said it would probably take until Wednesday before service returns to normal. About 200 arrivals and departures were canceled Sunday due to the air traffic control problem, with another 250 canceled on Monday. No international flights were canceled.

On the ground, the fires scorching parts of Southern California continue to disrupt parcel delivery operations.

"It has been a challenge to make pickups and deliveries with roadways being closed to allow for emergency vehicles only to pass and traffic delays due to evacuations," said Susan Pickett, vice president of marketing for forwarder Pilot Air Freight.

In a statement on its Web site, United Parcel Service said the wildfires are severely affecting pickups and deliveries in Southern California. UPS Customer Service Centers in the region have been forced to close as well. The carrier advises customers to expect delays of shipments coming into or out of the areas damaged and threatened by fire.

Continental Airlines Cargo is advising customers that operations in and out of San Diego International, Los Angeles International, John Wayne Airport in Orange County and Ontario International are subject to delay, said Rich Pagel, managing director for cargo operations. "Any time we have a cancellation we lose all that lift," he said.

Pilot is accepting inbound deliveries and is servicing customers in San Diego that are open. "As a forwarder we have more flexibility and more options since we are not tied to strict schedules," Pickett said.

San Diego officials are advising residents who don't have to evacuate to stay home.

UPS closed its twilight sort operation Monday night in San Diego and has also told customers of its Supply Chain Solutions division to expect delays in moving freight through the Port of Los Angeles.

There were some delays for UPS Monday night at its West Coast hub in Ontario, but nothing that would cause operating problems, said spokesman Mark Giuffre. Ontario has not yet been as affected as severely as other airports in the area, said Continental's Pagel.

Carol Joyce, a cargo spokeswoman for United Airlines, said United has not

canceled any flights today because of the fires. "Our cargo operation is running smoothly," she said.

Brandon L. Fried, chief operating officer of Adcom Worldwide, a freight forwarder in Alexandria, Va., said the company is experiencing some delays on shipments out of the East Coast due to diversions. "The impact is not that extreme - yet," he said. "We're certainly looking at it as a possible bottleneck as the week progresses."

FedEx spokesman Jim McCluskey said the company has implemented contingency plans to get shipments re-routed. "We're making every attempt to get packs delivered and to minimize delays," he said.