Caribbean Bracing for Hurricane Maria; Mainland US Hit Possible Next Week

Sep 18, 2017

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Between Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the 2017 hurricane season is already one for the record books. Both of these storms will easily end up in the top 5 most expensive hurricanes in history. But, we are just halfway through the season, and nature isn’t calling it quits.

Now, we have yet another major hurricane about to make landfall in the Leeward Islands, expected to make a Puerto Rico landfall as an almost Category 5 hurricane on Wednesday. And the Southeast US isn’t out of play either, with a possible hit early next week.

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Currently a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds, Hurricane Maria isn’t the catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that Irma was when it made landfall in the Leeward and Virgin Islands. That said, it’s still a powerful storm and is expected to cause substantial damage to these already-battered islands.

The storm is expected to continue gathering strength after passing over the outer islands. Current forecasts call for a very powerful Category 4 hurricane (150 mph) to make landfall on the south coast of Puerto Rico Wednesday.

WEATHER WAIVERS

If you are traveling in the area, many airlines have released travel waivers allowing you to change your travel plans. If you aren’t yet there, these weather waivers will let you rebook your trip avoid the area until the storm passes. For those in the area, you might want to book yourself on an earlier flight to get out before the storm reaches you.

Below is a map of all the airports affected by waivers:

Weather waiver airports 9-18-2017

If you are stuck due to the storm, airlines aren’t going to be responsible for paying for your meals or hotels in the case of weather-related delays/cancellations. That’s why we recommend paying for flights with cards have flight delay/cancellation insurance that can reimburse you for weather issues, including the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 3+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay) and Chase Sapphire Preferred ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay). My Citi Prestige personally came in handy a few weeks ago when I got stuck in Japan due to a typhoon-related flight cancellation.

As of this writing, here are the available travel waivers for this storm:

American Airlines

  • Travel dates: September 18-20
  • Airports affected: Antigua, Antigua (ANU); Bridgetown, Barbados (BGI); San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU); St. Croix Island, U.S. Virgin Islands (STX); St. Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis (SKB); St. Lucia, Saint Lucia (UVF); St. Thomas Island, U.S. Virgin Islands (STT)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 16
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 17-30
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

Delta

  • Travel dates: September 19-26
  • Airports affected: San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: October 2
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 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.

Caribbean Irma waivers

  • Travel dates: September 5-October 31
  • Airports affected: St. Thomas, VI (STT) and Turks Caicos ISLS, TC (PLS)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: October 31, 2018
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 31, 2018, 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.
  • Travel dates: September 5-December 31
  • Airports affected: St. Maarten SX (SXM)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: October 31, 2018
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 31, 2018, 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.

JetBlue

  • Travel dates: September 19-21
  • Airports affected: Aguadilla, PR (BQN); Antigua (ANU); Barbados (BGI); Ponce, PR (PSE); Punta Cana, DR (PUJ); San Juan, PR (SJU); St. Croix (STX); St. Lucia (UVF); St. Maarten (SXM); St. Thomas (STT)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 17
  • Rebook travel anytime through September 30
  • 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.
  • Note that the following airports still have Irma waivers available:
    • St. Maarten (SXM) for travel through May 1, 2018
    • Turks & Caicos (PLS) for travel through December 15
    • St. Thomas (STT) for travel through January 15, 2018
    • Santa Clara, Cuba (SNU) for travel through September 30

Southwest

  • Travel dates: September 18-22
  • Airports affected: San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and and Punta Cana (PUJ)
  • 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

  • Travel dates: September 18-20
  • Airports affected: Aguadilla, PR (BQN) and San Juan, PR (SJU)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: September 30
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.
  • Travel dates: September 5-October 31
  • Airports affected: St. Maarten, SX (SXM) and St. Thomas, USVI (STT)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: November 15
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.

United

  • Travel dates: September 18-23
  • Airports affected: Aguadilla, PR, US (BQN) and San Juan, PR, US (SJU)
  • ​​​​​​The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing on or before September 30, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​
  • Note that the following airports still have Irma waivers available:
    • Providenciales, TC (PLS)​; St. Thomas, VI (STT)​; St. Maarten, SX (SXM)​ for travel through October 31
    • Antigua, AG (ANU) and Nassau, BS (NAS)​ for travel through September 30​

No waivers yet from: Frontier

Featured image by Shutterstock.

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