U.S. Airlines Cancel Most Flights to Japan, Divert Planes Already en Route

U.S. airlines have canceled most of their flights to and from Japan on Friday, although some flights will remain on schedule after the country got hit with a massive earthquake and tsunami.

In addition to destruction of cities and villages along a 1,300 mile stretch of coastline, Tokyo’s main international airport at Narita has been significantly handicapped by the disaster, Reuters reported.

Most major airlines have rerouted their flights, or offered ways to exchange or refund tickets.

“Due to the earthquake that has affected Japan, American Airlines offers customers the convenience to change their travel plans,” the American Airlines Corp. (NYSE:AMR) Web site states, offering a time range to refund or exchange tickets already purchased. The major airline canceled all of its Japan operations for Friday and diverted flights already en route to airports in Osaka, Sapporo and Anchorage.

United Continental Holdings (NYSE:UAL) diverted seven United flights and two Continental flights from the U.S. to Narita, Reuters reported. It still intends to continue service to Hawaii and Guam.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL), the largest operator of U.S.-Japan flights, said in a release that services had been diverted to other airports pending runway reopenings in the capital. Dow Jones reported that Japan has grounded its outgoing flights, stranding thousands of passengers. Service from Malaysia, the U.K. and Europe have also been affected.

Haneda airport is partially open, according to All Nippon Airways Co. (NASDAQ:ALNPY), while officials check for damage on the runways, Dow Jones reported.

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is the largest recorded in Japan’s history. Some residents living on the coast in Hawaii, California and Oregon have been ordered to evacuate.