Thousands stranded as they wait for flights to resume after Irene

NEW YORK (AP) — Airports in the New York area are open again now that Tropical Storm Irene has left town, but airlines warn it will be days before all stranded passengers find their way home.

New York's John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports opened to arriving flights at 6 a.m. EDT. Departing flights are expected to start at noon. LaGuardia Airport opened to both arriving and departing flights at 7 a.m.

Flight tracking service FlightAware says there are nearly 1,500 cancelled flights on Monday, adding to the nearly 12,000 grounded this weekend. That tops record cancellations seen with a pair of massive snow storms this winter.

There are limited seats for passengers stranded because of Irene. Many flights are full ahead of Labor Day weekend.

Washington took a glancing blow from Irene, but most airports were still reporting some cancellations.

At Reagan National Airport, most flights were canceled with a handful departing for Western destinations. There were also a few arriving as well from cities like Detroit, Dallas and Chicago.

At Washington Dulles International Airport, most international flights in and out were on time while most flights north-bound to airports like John F. Kennedy International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport were cancelled.

At Baltimore Washington International Airport, most arriving flights were cancelled. Flights leaving before noon were cancelled as well.

American Airlines said it was resuming flights at the three major airports around the capital.

"It's really dependent upon mass transit and the airport being ready to support the start-up," JetBlue CEO Dave Barger told NBC.

Airlines said passengers should call ahead and make sure they have a confirmed seat before going to the airport.

FlightAware, which tracks delays and cancelations, said airlines had indicated about 500 cancelations for Monday, said the service's CEO, Daniel Baker. That would be a very small percentage of the nation's flights.

Airlines have already canceled more than 9,000 flights since Irene came ashore at North Carolina on Saturday, according to FlightAware. United, Continental, Delta, American, Southwest and JetBlue canceled all Sunday flights in the New York and Philadelphia areas long before Irene hit. They also moved planes out of the storm's path to avoid damage, further slowing the recovery of normal service.

Many planes have been full this summer, so finding empty seats for passengers whose first flight was canceled could be difficult. When blizzards hit the same region in December and February, it took some passengers days to get home.

Sara Hesselsweet of Norwalk, Conn., was scheduled on a Sunday flight home from vacation at Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border. After the flight was canceled, American Airlines told Hesselsweet it couldn't find seats for her, her husband and 2-year-old son until next Saturday.

The family decided to fly from Reno, Nev., to Dallas and on to Chicago on Sunday, then rent a car and drive back to Connecticut.

"We checked Philadelphia, D.C., Boston, the Carolinas - we couldn't get a flight anywhere," said Hesselsweet, sitting amid a pile of carry-on bags in the Reno airport.

The storm affected other forms of transportation too. Amtrak canceled many passenger trains, Greyhound scrubbed trips between Washington and New York, and cruise lines changed some of their itineraries as Irene made its way from the Bahamas to the Northeast.