American Airlines to Halt New York Departures Around 3 P.M.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Airlines were cancelling thousands of East Coast flights as a winter blizzard hit the area.

For New York airports, cancellations are expected starting at mid-afternoon, while Boston Logan International airport is scheduled to close at 4 p.m. EST. The three New York airports and Boston Logan each will have hundreds of cancellations before the storm passes through on Saturday.

American ( AAMRQ.PK) said it would cease operating at Logan and Hartford's Bradley International at noon Friday and would cancel all operations at the three major New York airports -- Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia -- from around 3 p.m. Friday through noon Saturday. American will not operate at Logan and Bradley on Saturday.

"We won't be operating at a number of northeast airports beginning this afternoon through midday on Saturday," said spokesman Kent Powell near midday Friday. He said customers ticketed for Friday and Saturday from about a dozen Northeast airports may rebook with no charge and begin travel as late as Tuesday. Most airlines have similar policies in place.

American and American Eagle have cancelled about 475 flights that were scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

As JetBlue ( JBLU) flights departed Logan for Florida on Friday morning, "people are comparing notes on how they managed to get a seat in the 11th hour," said passenger Elizabeth Reed, who was flying to Tampa. "There is a sense of excitement here."

According to Flightview, airlines had cancelled about 3,000 flights as of midday Friday, including 715 cancellations at LaGuardia, 704 at Newark, 528 at Kennedy, 502 at Boston, 217 at Philadelphia, 140 at Washington National, 127 at Bradley, 73 at Baltimore and 71 at Providence.

"There are a lot of proactive cancellations, which is a good thing for travelers because you know before you get to the airport," said Mike Benjamin, CEO of Flightview, a flight information provider. Additionally, he said, airlines will have aircraft better positioned once it is time to resume service.

As of noon Friday, the airport with the most delays was Toronto's Pearson International, where more than 80% of Friday morning flights were delayed.

US Airways ( LCC) had cancelled 447 Friday and Saturday flights as of noon Friday, while Delta ( DAL) had cancelled 830 scheduled Friday departures and United ( UAL) had cancelled 900 flights affecting 32 airports.

United spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm said the carrier had just extended its change fee waivers through Sunday.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte.