Flying out of Hurricane Irma's Way Will Cost You a Lot, in Dollars or Miles
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Hurricane Irma is expected to hit Miami on Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, and residents and visitors in South Florida are evacuating. At the time of this writing, all of the major US carriers have issued travel waivers for travel to South Florida and a slew of Caribbean Islands. If you’re traveling to or from the affected area between now and when the waivers expire, it's advisable to change your plans. The potentially catastrophic storm could hinder travel for days — or weeks — to come.
If you’re in South Florida and don’t currently have any means of evacuating, there are still flights available — for now. We also searched for other overland options for evacuations including Amtrak and Megabus. Bus tickets are still available on several routes, but we couldn't find any trains available from South Florida for the routes we searched.
Cash prices for flights are high as seats are selling out quickly. For example, here's a screenshot of the results of a search for one-way flights from Miami (MIA) to Charlotte (CLT) on American on Friday, September 8.
As you can see, it's going to cost you if you want to fly out of the path of the storm. The cheapest ticket we see is running for $445 one-way... with only one seat left. The situation isn't much better on the other legacy carriers, either. Delta's asking at least $387 for a one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Detroit (DTW). On Wednesday, Delta shared that it will be adding flights and sending larger aircraft on flights between its hub in Atlanta (ATL) and South Florida's three largest airports: MIA, FLL and Palm Beach International (PBI).
Finally, United's charging an eye-popping $1,003 for a one-way ticket from Miami (MIA) to its hub in Chicago (ORD).
Southwest, on the other hand, still has some tickets available with prices that are much closer to Earth than those of its competitors — we're seeing one-way flights starting at under $400 from FLL to Austin (AUS). Plus, with Southwest's generous checked bag policy, it could be a great way to get out quick.
If you want to put your points and miles to use, this could be a good time to do so. Keep in mind, however, there aren’t many options left, and the redemptions can be steep — and that these are not exhaustive lists. We sampled a few routes from each of the major carriers to see what award availability was like from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area to other regions in the US. With Irma expected to hit Miami on Sunday, you’ll want to travel before then in order to have the best chances at getting out.
It appears that American Airlines still has several award flights available out of MIA on Friday, and they'll cost you 20,000 AAdvantage miles one-way for an Economy AAnytime award.
If you have a stash of Delta SkyMiles waiting to be burned, this could be a good opportunity to do so — though flights won't come cheap. The airline is charging 47,000 miles for the one-way flight from FLL to DTW.
There are also award tickets available on Southwest's flights to Austin — though they're also on the steep side.
Remember, too, that if you have points in any of the major transferrable currencies (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou), you can use those points to book revenue flights through the respective travel portals. Given the high cost of many of these tickets, the amount of points you'll need to redeem is likely going to be very high, but it's worth researching as another option.
If you're 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, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you decide to take to the air to evade the storm, you shouldn't have much trouble finding a place to stay. We ran searches on hotels.com in each of the destinations featured in this post, and there still seem to be plenty of rooms available to book — and at decent prices, too.
Are you planning to evacuate South Florida via land or air?