What You Need to Know About Getting a Flight Out of Florida

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Florida residents trying to escape the wrath of Hurricane Irma are having to contend with a number of issues, including sold-out flights and reports of airline price gouging. 

In response to complaints, airlines are capping airfares and taking other steps to help travelers evacuate. Here’s a roundup of what they are doing, as well as tips to protect yourself if you feel you’re being gouged.  

American Airlines says it has capped pretax fares at $99 for main-cabin seats on direct, single-leg flights out of Florida for tickets sold through Sunday, Sept. 10, for travel through the 13th.

The airline says that its flight-change fee may be waived if travelers bought their tickets by Sept. 5, 2017, are scheduled to travel between Sept. 5 and 17, can travel through Sept. 30, 2017, and/or can change their origin or destination city within 300 miles.

Delta has capped one-way fares at $399 for flights to and from southern Florida for tickets bought through Sept. 13.

It is also waiving all baggage and pet-in-cabin fees for customers traveling to or from the cities covered by a weather waiver it issued for the region this week. The waiver allows customers with reservations to change plans without incurring a fee. Customers whose flights are canceled or delayed for 90 minutes are also entitled to a refund.

Delta has also increased the number of flights and upsized its aircrafts on flights out of South Florida, saying Thursday that it has added 2,000 more seats. New flights will fly from Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West to Atlanta, Delta's largest hub.

More details can be found here: http://news.delta.com/update-what-customers-need-know-about-irma

JetBlue says it has capped the price of available seats from $99 to $159, but says that due to intense demand, seats are predominantly sold out. However, the airline says that it has added flights to its schedule.

For existing reservations, JetBlue is waiving its cancellation fees and differences in airfare rebooking.

More details can be found here: https://www2.jetblue.com/JetblueAlerts/WeatherUpdate.aspx

United Airlines did not change how it prices seats for flights out of Florida, according to an email from spokesman Frank Benenati on Wednesday. However, he says the airline has taken steps to reduce fares so that it won’t charge more than the cost of a typical last-minute fare.

The airline is also adding flights, and has enacted a travel waiver and expanded the dates and cities from which those impacted by the storm can use it.

For travel booked between Sept. 5 and Sept. 17, 2017, the change fee and difference in fare will be waived for flights departing on or before Sept. 30, 2017.​​

More details can be found here: https://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/news/Pages/travelnotices.aspx

Allegiant, a major regional airline operating from Florida, says on its website that passengers with reservations to and from select 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 Hawaii and San Juan.

More details can be found here: https://www.allegiantair.com/travel-alerts

Because the airlines will be adding flights and upsizing their airplanes for areas affected by the hurricane, travelers looking for seats should keep checking the web to see whether more seats become available.

George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, an airline price alert and analysis site, says travelers should be sure to look at a variety of resources when shopping. Look on an airline’s website directly rather than just using an app like Hopper or Kayak, he says. Hobica points out that airlines like Southwest, Allegiant, and Delta don’t always show up on all the airfare price-shopping sites.

Call the Transportation Department. This is the only agency that has the authority to investigate and possibly fine an airline if it finds its regulations have been violated.

Haggle with the airline. Hobica says that according to a DOT rule, travelers have 24 hours to cancel their flight on tickets purchased seven or more days in advance of departure. Unfortunately, travelers who bought tickets this week for a flight leaving before the hurricane makes landfall this weekend wouldn’t be protected under the rule.  

“Travelers can throw themselves onto the mercy of the airlines,” Hobica says. “Call your airline and see if you can rebook at a lower price,” he suggests.

Ask about price drop protection. Because many airlines are now capping their prices, Hobica encourages passengers to see whether their airline offers price drop protection, which can make up the difference in price. However, price drop protection is rare and is usually redeemable in travel coupons and not cash, Hobica says.

Use social media, especially Twitter. Hobica says that Twitter is a great way to communicate with an airline. He recommends that travelers not immediately Twitter-shame the airline, but instead send a tweet explaining the situation to the airline. Airlines are usually quick to respond and connect with travelers, who can then resolve their issues over private messages with an airline customer-service rep.

“If you sign up for Twitter for no other reason than to communicate with an airline when traveling, I think it’s worth it,” Hobica says.      

More from Consumer Reports:
Top pick tires for 2016
Best used cars for $25,000 and less
7 best mattresses for couples

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2017, Consumer Reports, Inc.