By Nick Thompson
(CNN) — Thousands of flights to and from the east coast of the United States have been cancelled because of the growing threat from deadly Hurricane Sandy.
Middle Eastern, European, Asian and U.S. airlines have grounded flights in and out of America’s eastern seaboard as 350-mile wide Sandy prepares to make landfall later Monday.
British Airways has now cancelled flights to and from New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore.
A statement on BA’s website said: “We understand that customers may be disappointed, however their safety is our highest priority. We are offering the option to rebook or receive a refund to those customers whose flights are cancelled.”
Britain’s Virgin Airlines also cancelled all east coast flights, and London’s Heathrow Airport is advising U.S.-bound passengers to check their flight status before travelling to the airport.
Qatar Airways and the United Arab Emirates-based airlines Etihad and Emirates also cancelled flights to the U.S. northeast. In a statement Emirates said the safety of their passengers “will not be compromised.”
Germany’s Lufthansa, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, Australia’s Qantas and Turkish Airlines have also scrubbed flights in and out of New York and elsewhere.
Some 50 million people from Virginia to Massachusetts are expected to feel the effect of Sandy, which is expected to land somewhere between Maryland and Pennsylvania late Monday or early Tuesday. New Jersey could bear the brunt of the Category 1 hurricane, according to a forecast map released by the National Hurricane Center.
The cost of potential wind damage alone from the hurricane could be up to $3 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The storm has also prompted thousands of domestic cancellations across America.
While all American Airlines flights to the east coast are cancelled, the airline is operating a normal service to other parts of the country.
United Airlines grounded roughly 3,700 flights between Sunday and Wednesday, and Delta said all flights from Washington to Boston, and out of New York and Philadelphia, were cancelled.
Both companies are allowing some customers to change their flight plans without paying any fees due to the storm.
Information from CNN Wires was used in this report.
™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.