Grrr… Airlines Gouging Folks Fleeing Hurricane Irma – And What to Do About It
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Hurricane Irma has begun flirting with Puerto Rico, and will soon run her fingers through the hair of South Florida. And if you’re one of the unlucky folks in her path, you should have an escape plan!
I usually recommend folks use their miles & points quickly after earning them. But there’s nothing wrong with saving some of them for emergency situations!
If you have a stash of miles & points, now could be the time to use them!
Hurricane Irma Creeps Towards Florida
Residents in Florida are fretting over cheap ways to flee the area for Hurricane Irma. Most flights are full, and it’s difficult to even find any trains or buses with open seats! On top of that, it seems that some airlines are charging dramatically high prices for flights heading away from Florida.
Team Member Scott lives in West Palm Beach, and plans to evacuate either tonight or tomorrow. He’s got a suitcase filled with tuna and protein bars! He’d been searching for airfare to New York to stay with family, but couldn’t find anything under $1,000 one-way.
Airlines are quick to point out that ticket prices are always higher for travel that isn’t booked well in advance. But some prices are astronomically high, and indicate certain airlines have no compassion for potential victims’ desperation.
The fares have since dropped, but are by no means inexpensive. The cheapest I found was a flight for ~$600 one-way. But most are MUCH more pricey.
Lots of cheaper flights show up in search results on Google and airline websites, but they disappear once you click on them.
I’m sad to see airlines take this route with Hurricane Irma. After all the recent negative press they’ve received, it would have been nice to see a humanitarian element! The well-being of folks in Florida and other vulnerable areas should be more important than money.
JetBlue Staying Honest
Fortunately, JetBlue has announced that they will cap their ticket prices for flights heading out of Florida and away from Hurricane Irma! They will charge a maximum of $99 for the last available seat for direct flights, and a maximum of $159 for flights with connections. Nicely done, JetBlue!
JetBlue has also increased the number of flights out of Florida airports where they have available planes. And they’re even waiving cancellation fees and change fees and differences in fare prices for folks who want to rebook.
American Airlines announced it would do the same, but I must be missing those fares!
What Can You Do?
While booking the more expensive standard award seats seems like a waste of miles & points (they can cost more than 2X the saver level award price!), now might be a good time to use them. You don’t have to just book the cheapest flight out of Florida and hunker down until the storm passes. Consider taking a quick trip to somewhere fun!
I found standard level American Airlines award seats to London leaving tomorrow from Orlando for 47,500 miles one-way in coach.Note: Folks with the Chase United Explorer Card should be able to book any seat on a United Airlines flight as long as it’s for sale. So if flight prices are sky-high, consider burning some United Airlines miles instead!
Or you might consider spending the extra miles for First or Business Class seats, which haven’t entirely sold out.
Something I like to do is use the Skyscanner search tool to look for flights from my home airport to anywhere in the world. It will sort the results by the cheapest price! So if you want to be anywhere but home, it will give you lots of affordable options.
For example, I searched Fort Lauderdale to “Everywhere” leaving tomorrow, and it displayed a list of the cheapest destinations!
Obviously, you don’t want to fly to the first few destinations on that list, as they’re being attacked by Hurricane Irma. But you can head to Costa Rica from Fort Lauderdale for fairly cheap!
Skyscanner says flights cost $225 one-way, but when I clicked on the price, it was closer to $500. Still, that beats spending $1,000+ for a flight to New York City!
Hurricane Irma will soon arrive in Florida. And some airlines seem to be jacking up the prices for flights away from the storm – or at least not changing their rates to accommodate folks that are fleeing.
Fortunately, JetBlue has capped their airfare at $99 for non-stop flights, and $159 for flights with connections out of Florida.
This is one of the few circumstances I’d use more miles & points to book standard level awards or a better cabin to escape the storm! Standard level awards can cost more than 2X the normal award price. But safety is much more important than saving a few miles!
If you’re in Hurricane Irma’s path, please be safe.
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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)