Airports Shut Down, Airlines Extend Free Travel Changes for Hurricane Harvey

Aug 27, 2017

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Hurricane Harvey, the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the US since 2004, has turned into a tropical storm but has dropped absolutely unbelievable amounts of rain, creating havoc in Texas and shutting down passenger flights at several airports, including in Houston.

Meteorologists now expect over 50 inches of rain to drop in some areas, which would be an all-time record for the most rain from a tropical system.

In scenes reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina, Houston highways have turned into rivers, residents are being rescued from roofs and the convention center has now been opened as a large-scale shelter. The National Weather Service is still warning of a “flash flood emergency for life-threatening catastrophic flooding.”

In the devastation, both of Houston’s major airports have closed — along with six others in the area, including Corpus Christi (CRP). Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) is closed to all flights except for military and relief flights. It’s not expected to re-open until Monday at noon. Houston’s other commercial airport, Hobby, is dealing with flooding on the runways, which has shuttered operations likely through Wednesday morning.

Understandably, cancellations are piling up. For Sunday alone, nearly 1,700 flights have been cancelled in the US — most from Hurricane Harvey. When you add in cancellations for the past few days and flights already cancelled for Monday and Tuesday, there have been over 4,000 cancellations due to the storm.

Long-haul flights that took off for IAH before the closure are now being diverted. A KLM flight from Amsterdam (AMS) is diverting to Atlanta (ATL), Air New Zealand’s flight from Auckland (AKL) is diverting to Los Angeles (LAX) instead and United’s flight from Munich (MUC) is going to Chicago (ORD).

If you’re looking to donate to relief efforts, American Airlines and United have set up donation campaigns allowing you to earn up to 10 miles per dollar donated.

Airlines are also extending their travel waivers for the storm and related airport closures. As of this writing, here are the available travel waivers for this storm:

Alaska Airlines (no change from original)

  • Travel dates: August 25-27
  • Airports affected: Austin (AUS), Houston (IAH), San Antonio (SAT)
  • Tickets purchased on/before: August 24
  • Change fees and the difference in the price of the ticket if the new travel is booked to or from the affected cities in the same cabin and completed on or before September 3, 2017 is waived. You may request a refund if you choose not to travel at all. Tickets must be exchanged or refunded on or before August 28, 2017.

American Airlines (original travel dates extended, rebooked travel dates extended)

  • Travel dates: August 25-29
  • Airports affected: Austin, Texas (AUS); Beaumont / Port Arthur, Texas (BPT); Brownsville, Texas (BRO); College Station, Texas (CLL); Corpus Christi, Texas (CRP); Houston, Texas (HOU); Houston, Texas (IAH); Lake Charles, Louisiana (LCH); Laredo, Texas (LRD); McAllen / Mission, Texas (MFE); San Antonio, Texas (SAT)
  • Must have bought your ticket by August 23
  • Rebook travel anytime between August 23-September 11
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

Delta (original travel dates extended, extended to Austin and San Antonio, rebooked travel dates extended)

  • Travel dates: August 25-30
  • Airports affected: Austin, TX (AUS); Houston, TX – Hobby (HOU); Houston, TX – Intercontinental (IAH); San Antonio, TX (SAT)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: September 2
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 2, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue.
  • If travel cannot be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.

Frontier (no changes from original)

  • Travel dates: August 24-27
  • Airports affected: Austin Bergstrom International, TX (AUS); San Antonio International, TX (SAT); Houston Bush Intercontinental, TX (IAH); New Orleans Louis B. Armstrong International, LA (MSY)
  • Must have bought your ticket by August 23
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: September 18
  • Origin and destination cities may be changed.
  • One change available. Rules/restrictions regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay requirements will be waived.

JetBlue (extended original travel dates and rebooked travel dates)

  • Travel dates: August 25-29
  • Airports affected: Austin, TX (AUS); Houston, TX (HOU); New Orleans, LA (MSY)
  • Must have bought your ticket by August 23
  • Rebook travel anytime through September 1
  • To rebook travel or request a refund online, click here. If you are already checked in for your flight, call [JetBlue] at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) for assistance with rebooking or a credit.

Southwest (extended original travel dates)

  • Travel dates: August 25-September 1
  • Airports affected: Austin (AUS); Corpus Christi (CRP); Houston (HOU); Harlingen (HRL); San Antonio (SAT)
  • Customers who are holding reservations for flights departing during these dates, and want to alter their travel plans may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with Southwest’s accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.

Spirit Airlines (extended original travel dates and reboked travel dates)

  • Travel dates: August 25-29
  • Airports affected: Houston (IAH)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: August 31
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.

United (extended original travel dates, extended rebooked travel dates by two weeks, extended airports)

  • Travel dates: August 25-31
  • Airports affected: Alexandria, LA (AEX)​; Austin, TX (AUS)​; Baton Rouge, LA (BTR)​; Brownsville, TX, US (BRO)​; College Station, TX, US (CLL);​ Corpus Christi, TX (CRP);​ Harlingen, TX (HRL);​ Houston, TX (IAH);​ Lafayette, LA (LFT)​; Lake Charles, LA (LCH);​ Laredo, TX (LRD);​ McAllen, TX (MFE)​; New Orleans, LA (MSY);​ San Antonio, TX (SAT);​ Shreveport, LA (SHV)​
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing on or before September 13, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

Featured image by Scott Olson / Getty Images

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