The most powerful and dangerous hurricane tracked thus far in the Atlantic is wreaking havoc not just on Caribbean islands but also on the United States airline industry. After social media complaints about outrageous price gouging, three U.S. air carriers rushed to announce reduced fares and price caps at least through September 13 or until Hurricane Irma exits the continental territory.
American Airlines, a carrier that has a major presence in Miami, announced that it would not ask for more than $99 on tickets purchased for single routes. JetBlue made a similar move by offering flights out of South Florida between $99 and $159 while Delta capped its regional flights at no more than $399.
As can be expected, the prospect of Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida has caused a major surge in demand for flights leaving the region; an even more frenzied situation was noticed in the Bahamas on the afternoon of September 6, when the storm was battering the northern coastline of Puerto Rico.
A Twitter update showing a Delta Airlines flight departing Miami and arriving in Phoenix set off indignation as it showed a fare in excess of $3,200. Delta confirmed that the route shown on the screenshot was theirs, but that the astronomic price was not correct. Apparently, a high-demand algorithm on travel booking site Expedia got out of hand, and Delta contacted the traveler to work with her on getting a ticket at a much lower price.
Even though Delta did the right thing and received praise for its quick reaction, some people contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation to voice their complaints. It so happens that Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall at a time when airlines are planning on winding down their operations so that they can prepare for the holiday travel season. Some airlines are now doing the opposite and asking some employees to return from vacation to handle evacuation flights from Miami all the way north to Orlando.
Some hurricane forecast models suggested that Irma could make landfall on September 9; this prediction has prompted airline executives to make changes to their flight plans. Meteorologists are not sure whether Hurricane Irma will decrease in strength as it gets closer to Miami and the Florida Keys. As of September 6, the National Hurricane Center had reported that Irma was still a very dangerous Category Five storm.