Flying in the midst of Irma

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

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Irma is striking fear and panic in the hearts of many Americans, particularly those who have lived through other natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and most recently, Harvey.  Many residents are fleeing extreme danger zones and business and leisure travelers are trying to negotiate plans to get from point A to B on pre-planned trips. Here’s what to expect if you’re flying in the midst of Hurricane Irma.

Flight Cancellations

In an interview with Mark Miller, Global Industry Leader, Aviation for The Weather Company, Mr. Miller said, “Airlines began canceling flights in South Florida and Carribean earlier in the week and there will be significantly more disruption in the next few days as Irma approaches Florida and the storm track becomes clearer.   Airports and the FAA towers halt operations when winds reach 55 mph and airlines generally do not operate in sustained crosswinds that exceed 35 mph.  The safety of employees and passengers is paramount.  There are a number of major airports in the region that will likely reach these thresholds.   Airlines will cancel sooner to ensure a faster recovery when the winds and storm impacts subside, as opposed to having aircraft and crew out of position.   Cancellations combined with reduced airport and airspace capacity through the region can lead to significant delays, propagating to other airports outside the direct impacts of the storm.”

Soaring Ticket Prices

The Verge recently reported on airline price gouging out of Florida. No surprise as the entire region is under a state of emergency.

According to the report, one woman searching Expedia was shown a Delta itinerary between Miami and Phoenix for $3,258. (Delta later directly reached out to her and she was able to book a seat at a lower price.) Someone else trying to book on American found their flight jumped almost $600 within the span of a couple hours. Another on United’s website was presented with a round trip fare between Miami and Denver for $6,785.

What can airlines can do in this type of situation? Some have added additional flights, but there’s only so much that can logistically be done within such a short window of time. “It’s like Christmas,” says Chris Lopinto of ExpertFlyer.com, “except instead of having five months to figure things out, you’re trying to figure this out over the course of five days.”

Lopinto also says airlines can file different fares every hour, so they have the ability to bring down the price for tickets. Some airlines have committed to capping the prices of remaining direct flights. JetBlue and American both said they are selling remaining direct flights this week for $99, while Delta is capping direct flights at $399. These flights, though, were already sold out or nearly sold out. As of 4:21PM ET, ExpertFlyer.com showed just one seat available on JetBlue from Fort Lauderdale to New York over the next couple of days.

Ultimately, even with the extra push from airlines, there simply aren’t enough seats available. If you still need a flight, look now, or start planning to drive.

 

 

 

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