Expect disruptions to service as you travel through Orlando International Airport (MCO) over the next few days.
Orlando Airport is running out of fuel on Sunday
As noted by @xJonNYC, Orlando International Airport is having a bit of a fuel crisis, and it’s getting worse today. According to a notice to flight missions (NOTAM), the Orlando airport is expected to run out of fuel from Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.
The problem was caused by inclement weather along the Gulf Coast, which has presented reserve supplies being shipped to Florida via ships.
Although the airport has not yet run out of fuel, rationing has already begun, allowing airlines to fuel as much as possible over the past few days. That means they flew into Orlando with extra fuel, so they don’t have to refuel (or significantly less) when they leave the airport.
Admittedly, this comes with its own set of challenges. Even if a plane can carry enough fuel for the return trip, it may not be able to land in Orlando with it. Airplanes have higher maximum takeoff weights than maximum landing weights.
For example, this isn’t a big problem for an Orlando-Miami flight, but it’s obviously a much bigger problem for an Orlando-Seattle or Orlando-London flight.
How are airlines dealing with this?
While tankers have already sailed without the knowledge of passengers, the situation is set to worsen Sunday night when jet fuel is expected to run out. Airlines are beginning to publicize their plans. Of the “big three” US airlines, United appears to have already made the most proactive schedule changes.
For example, United’s first flight from Orlando to San Francisco will be diverted to Dallas today, while United’s later flight from Orlando to San Francisco will be diverted to Fort Myers.
Meanwhile, United’s Orlando-Los Angeles flight will be diverted to New Orleans.
British Airways flight from Orlando to London Gatwick will stop in Miami for refueling.
While American has yet to release schedule changes, it plans to refuel in Miami for westbound flights and in Atlanta, Charlotte or Jacksonville for northbound flights.
As a result, we’ll likely see some flight cancellations as well. Finally, refueling stops can significantly increase travel time, and in some cases this can result in crews “sealing out” and working more than their contractual limits.
Orlando Airport is expected to run out of fuel Sunday night. While airlines have already refueled as much fuel as possible, operations will be significantly more impacted from today as many flights make refueling stops.
This shouldn’t have a big impact on short-haul flights (like to Atlanta or Miami), but if you’re catching a longer flight from Orlando, expect to have an extra stop or flights to be canceled altogether.
Are OMAAT readers affected by this Orlando fuel situation?