Would-Be Travelers May Be Stranded as Flights Canceled Ahead of Hurricane Irma

Flights grounded airports trashed as Hurricane Irma makes way up Florida

Flights originating from Europe and South America that were scheduled to arrive Friday have also been canceled. Hotel rooms in northern Florida were reportedly booking up quickly, and some gas stations ran out of fuel.

Shares of airline companies were mostly higher Friday, as a downgrade of Hurricane Irma to a Category 4 storm helped offset yet another unit revenue warning, this time from Southwest Airlines Co. Stranded passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were shuttled to an elementary school that doubles as a shelter, while dozens of flights out of Palm Beach County were canceled or ominously "delayed."

The eye of the storm is expected to make landfall Sunday morning in the Florida Keys and travel up the Atlantic coastline, according to the National Hurricane Center. After that, all United flights on Saturday and Sunday are canceled.

Pre-scheduled flights sold out early, but custom shuttles with three seats were available for around $6,000.

Major airlines have vowed to cap ticket prices for people traveling to and from those areas.

JetSmarter, a South Florida based private jet company that started four years ago with around 10,000 members, will provide flights from Fort Lauderdale to destinations out of the reach of Irma such as Teterboro and Morristown airports in New Jersey, plus New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas and out of other Florida cities as well.


"I understand when you buy at the last minute the price is always ghastly", he said in an interview.

After reports on social media of $3,000 one-way fares, American and JetBlue capped direct one-way tickets out of South Florida at $99. The last flight out of Orlando will be at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Miami International spokesman Greg Chin said other airlines operating there are expected to take similar steps.

The scramble to get out of the hurricane's path was so acute that the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday evening said air traffic controllers were increasing the space between flights from Miami and nearby Fort Lauderdale to enable them to better manage the crowded skies.

Two Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Richard Blumenthal of CT and Edward Markey of MA, asked for a federal investigation. And by taking a stand on prices, JetBlue made it clear that it's got the right priorities, and customers are likely to keep that in mind in the future.

George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, said he checked several routes and did not believe that prices were out of line for last-minute tickets, which nearly always cost more. "Shameful price gouging", one user wrote.

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