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Eclipse flights swarm airports: ‘We had to close the runway to park planes’

An airplane passes during a partial solar eclipse seen from Queens, New York City, U.S., April 8, 2024. 

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Monday’s solar eclipse is giving some of the country’s smaller airports their moment in the sun.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported arriving flights at airports from Burlington, Vermont, to southern Illinois were briefly halted Monday morning ahead of the total eclipse.

Such disruptions are routinely caused by bad weather and heavy traffic in big-city hubs, but high demand for prime views of the phenomenon jammed some smaller airports on Monday. The best views of the solar eclipse in the U.S. span from Texas through Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio to northwestern New York and Maine, according to NASA.

Passengers and crew take a photo wearing solar eclipse glasses aboard Southwest flight 1252 from Dallas, Texas to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which passed through the path of totality on April 08, 2024 in Dallas, Texas.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

FAA traffic adjustments give airports time to catch up and avoid airplane parking jams on the ground.

“We had to close the runway to park planes,” Alyssa Connell, head of operations at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Illinois, told CNBC. The airport, which has three runways, took reservations for eclipse flights and on Friday reached its maximum threshold for 230 small propeller aircraft and about 45 larger jets and larger turboprops. “This is by far the most aircraft we’ve ever seen.”

The Statue of Liberty is seen during a partial solar eclipse, where the moon partially blocks out the sun, at Liberty Island in New York City, U.S., April 8, 2024. 

David Dee Delgado | Reuters

Patrick Leahy Burlington International Airport in Vermont is scheduled to receive between 100 and 130 general aviation planes on Monday, said Dave Carman, deputy director of aviation operations. It’s also expecting some scheduled commercial passenger jet traffic.

“It’s the most we’ve seen in a day,” Carman said. “It’s going to be hectic getting out,” he said.

A Southwest flight attendant wears solar eclipse glasses while giving a safety demonstration aboard Southwest flight 1252 from Dallas, Texas to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which passed through the path of totality on April 08, 2024 in Dallas, Texas.

Justin Sullivan  | Getty Images

The eclipse was called out as a major event on the FAA’s morning planning call at its command center in Warrenton, Virginia, according to an agency spokeswoman. Other common obstacles include presidential travel, severe weather or major sports and entertainment events.

The FAA had previously warned pilots about possible disruptions and heavy traffic at a host of airports on or near the eclipse’s path.

Delta Air Lines sold special eclipse flights during which passengers could view it from the sky, one from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Detroit and another from Austin, Texas, to Detroit.

A passenger wears solar eclipse glasses as she looks from a special Delta Airlines eclipse flight over the skies of the U.S., April 8, 2024. 

Leonardo Benassatto | Reuters

Other airlines have called out flights that could offer views of the eclipse along the “path of totality.” United Airlines said bookings to San Antonio more than doubled around the eclipse compared with the same dates last year and surged in Cleveland and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The eclipse is expected to be a boon for hotels, house rentals and other businesses as tourists swarm in.

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