Airlines Cancelling Flights, Waiving Fees as ‘Extremely Dangerous’ Hurricane Florence Nears Coast

Sep 11, 2018

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There’s no positive news to share with the Carolina coast: Hurricane Florence has restrengthened over the last few hours, and the storm continues to follow its predicted path toward the coast as a Category 4 hurricane. With forecasts solidifying for the timing and location of landfall, airlines have started cancelling flights, expanding weather waivers and some airlines are waiving fees to help those evacuating the area.

As of the 5:00pm National Hurricane Center advisory, Hurricane Florence completed its eyewall replacement cycle and regained 140mph top sustained winds. As the storm will remain in a very favorable environment over the next 24 hours, Florence is expected to strengthen further. Forecasts still call for Florence to retain “major hurricane” status when it makes landfall on the North Carolina coast on Friday afternoon.

While the hurricane is currently steaming toward the Southeast Coast at a fast 17mph clip, the NHC notes that the “steering currents will collapse” as the dangerous hurricane approaches the coast. This is going to result in the hurricane stalling out over the Carolinas shortly after landfall.

The NHC predicts that this will cause “life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding” through the Carolinas and into Virginia. With each update, the predicted rainfall totals have gotten more concerning — especially for the coast that’s expected to take a beating from the strong winds and high surf. While the map below tops out at 20 inches of rain, NHC forecasts note that the storm may dump “isolated maximum amounts of 35 inches” of rain in parts of the warning area.

Researchers from the University of Michigan are predicting that the hurricane will leave approximately 3.3 million residents without power.

Image courtesy of Guikema Research Group from the University of Michigan.
Image courtesy of Guikema Research Group from the University of Michigan.

Evacuation of Air and Sea Fleets

Ahead of the storm, Boeing shut down production of Dreamliners at its Charleston plant and has flown all airworthy Dreamliners from Charleston to its other Dreamliner plant in Everett, Washington. The Navy isn’t taking any chances with its fleet either, sending all ships out to sea from its Hampton Roads navy base.

Flight Cancellations

Airlines are already starting to cancel flights ahead of the hurricane. According to Flight Aware’s cancellation tracker as of 6:30pm on Tuesday, 101 flights have already been cancelled for Wednesday and 85 Thursday flights are cancelled. Charlotte (CLT) is the hardest hit by the cancellations with 42 cancellations Wednesday and another 43 cancellation already for Thursday. In Charleston, SC (CHS), airlines have already cancelled 21 flights Wednesday and 13 on Thursday.

In the bullseye of the storm, Coastal Carolina Regional Airports near New Bern, NC (EWN) has announced all commercial flights are cancelled for both Thursday and Friday.

Airline Fare Caps and Fee Waivers

As it did last year in Florida and the Caribbean, Delta has capped airfares out of “select coastal and inland cities from Savannah, Ga., up to Richmond, Va.” While “fares range by cabin, flight distance and market,” fares are capped as low as $299 one-way in economy or $799 one-way in first class. JetBlue has also capped fares at a much-lower $149 one-way to/from of Savannah (SAV), Charleston (CHS), Charlotte (CLT), Raleigh (RDU) and Richmond (RIC) through Sunday.

In addition, Delta is also waiving all luggage and pet-in-cabin fees — in addition to lifting the per-flight limit on the number of pets allowed in the cabin — in/out of the following cities from September 10-17: Charleston, SC (CHS); Jacksonville, NC (OAJ); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); New Bern, NC (EWN); Newport News, VA (PHF); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Savannah, GA (SAV) and Wilmington, NC (ILM).

Ten airlines have issued weather waivers for the area — many of which have been expanded since they were originally posted. As of 5:00pm ET, the following waivers have been issued for Hurricane Florence. See here for waivers for Hurricane Isaac (Caribbean) and Hurricane Olivia (Hawaii).

In This Post

Alaska Airlines

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Charleston (CHS); Raleigh/Durham (RDU)
  • Tickets must have been purchased by September 10
  • Rebooked travel must occur between September 10-October 1
  • If you purchased your tickets directly from Alaska Airlines, you have a few options. Click one of the links below: Change my flight or Cancel my flight and deposit the ticket value into My account.

Allegiant

  • Travel dates: September 12-16
  • Covered airports: Asheville, NC (AVL); Charleston, SC (CHS); Concord, NC (USA); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Greenville, SC (GSP); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Richmond, VA (RIC); Roanoke, VA (ROA); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • Passengers with reservations to / from any of the above cities, will be able to request a one-time change to their travel plans without incurring change / cancel fees. To do so, customers must call Allegiant Customer Care at 702-505-8888 at any time 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
  • Itineraries must be changed within 14 days from this weather advisory for travel on any future open date to any city in the Allegiant network, excluding San Juan.

American

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Asheville, North Carolina (AVL); Augusta, Georgia (AGS); Charleston, South Carolina (CHS); Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT); Charlottesville, Virginia (CHO); Columbia, South Carolina (CAE); Fayetteville, North Carolina (FAY); Florence, South Carolina (FLO); Greensboro / High Point, North Carolina (GSO); Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina (GSP); Greenville, North Carolina (PGV); Hampton / Newport News, Virginia (PHF); Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH); Jacksonville, North Carolina (OAJ); Lynchburg, Virginia (LYH); Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR); New Bern, North Carolina (EWN); Norfolk, Virginia (ORF); Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina (RDU); Richmond, Virginia (RIC); Roanoke, Virginia (ROA); Savannah, Georgia (SAV); Wilmington, North Carolina (ILM)
  • Must have purchased ticket by: September 10
  • Rebooked travel must occur between September 10-19
  • You may change your origin and destination to any another city affected by this alert. You may also change your flights to depart from or arrive at: Baltimore, Maryland (BWI); Washington Reagan, Washington D.C. (DCA); Washington Dulles, Washington D.C. (IAD)
  • Rebook in the same cabin or pay the difference.
  • Avoid the phone queue. Changes available on both AA’s website and in the AA app.

Delta

  • Travel dates: September 11-16 [extended from prior version]
  • Covered airports: Charleston, SC (CHS); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Charlottesville, VA (CHO); Columbia, SC (CAE); Fayetteville, NC (FAY); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Jacksonville, NC (OAJ); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Norfolk, VA (ORF); New Bern, NC (EWN); Newport News, VA (PHF); Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU); Richmond, VA (RIC); Roanoke, VA (ROA); Savannah, GA (SAV); Wilmington, NC (ILM) [expanded from prior version]
  • Tickets must have been purchased by: September 10
  • Tickets must be reissued by: September 20
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: September 20
  • Changes to origins and destinations may result in an increase in fare. Any difference in fare between your original ticket and the new ticket will be collected at the time of booking.
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 20, 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 is not able to 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. Applicable change fee and fare difference will apply for new travel dates.

Frontier

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Charleston, SC (CHS); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (GSP); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • Customers who are ticketed to travel between Monday, September 10, 2018 and Sunday, September 16, 2018, who
    purchased tickets on or before Monday, September 10, 2018, may make one itinerary change – rules/restrictions
    regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay
    requirements will be waived.
  • Travel must be completed no later than Monday, October 1, 2018.
  • Origin and destination cities may be changed.
  • Frontier has already cancelled dozens of flights. See the full list here.

JetBlue

  • Travel dates: September 11-16 [extended from prior version]
  • Covered airports: Baltimore, MD (BWI); Charleston, SC (CHS); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU); Richmond, VA (RIC); Savannah, GA (SAV); Washington, DC (DCA); Washington, DC (IAD)
  • Customers may rebook their flights for travel through Thursday, September 20
  • Original travel must have been booked on or before Monday, September 10
  • Customers with cancelled flights may also opt for a refund to the original form of payment
  • Make the change online in the ‘Manage Flights’ section of jetblue.com or by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) prior to the departure time of their originally scheduled flight

Southwest

  • Travel dates: September 10-17
  • Covered airports: Baltimore/Washington (BWI); Charleston (CHS); Charlotte (CLT); Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP); Norfolk/Virginia Beach (ORF); Raleigh/Durham (RDU); Richmond (RIC); Washington Dulles International (IAD); Washington DC (Reagan National DCA)
  • Customers who are holding reservations for the abovementioned 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.
  • Customers who purchased their itinerary via Southwest.com or our mobile app are eligible to reschedule their travel plans online or from their mobile device. Customers who did not purchase a ticket via Southwest.com can call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative. Customers in the U.S. scheduled to travel internationally must call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative for assistance with rebooking.

Spirit

  • Travel dates: September 12-16
  • Covered airports: Asheville, NC (AVL); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Richmond, VA (RIC)
  • Modification Charge/Fare Difference waived through: September 20
  • After this date, the modification charge is waived, but a fare difference may apply.
  • Guests can make changes to their reservations affected by this event by going to Spirit’s Manage Travel page, or by calling the Spirit Reservations Center at 801-401-2222 to make their flight changes. To make changes to Spirit Vacation packages contact Spirit Vacations at 954-379-8866.

United

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Greenville/Spartanburg, SC (GSP); Columbia, SC (CAE); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Charleston, SC (CHS); Wilmington, NC (ILM); Fayetteville, NC (FAY); Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Asheville, NC (AVL); Roanoke, VA (ROA); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Richmond, VA (RIC); Charlottesville, VA (CHO); Shenandoah Valley Airport, VA (SHD); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing between September 10-16, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.
  • For wholly rescheduled travel departing after September 20 or for a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. Rescheduled travel must be completed within one year from the date when the ticket was issued.

WestJet

  • Travel dates: September 14
  • Covered airports: Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR)
  • To find out more about the change and cancel options due to these advisories, please call: WestJet flights: 1-888-937-8538 or WestJet Vacations: 1-877-737-7001

Protect Your Travels

These storms are yet another reminder to book flights with a card that offers solid trip delay and cancellation insurance. Currently, I’m using my Chase Sapphire Reserve to book my flights going forward. Another top choice is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Stay tuned to TPG for updates on Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac and Tropical Storm Olivia. Browse to www.thepointsguy.com/hurricane for the latest info.

Featured image by Handout / Getty Images.

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