Evacuees Trying to Leave Florida Before Hurricane Irma Complain of Outrageous Airfares
Irma is scheduled to make U.S. landfall this weekend.
Several reports of spikes in airline ticket costs have surfaced from Florida residents who are trying to leave the state to escape Hurricane Irma.
Irma, currently a category 5 storm, is set to slam into Puerto Rico on Wednesday evening followed by south Florida on Sunday, and many residents are trying to make their way out of the state.
However, some Floridians are complaining that certain airlines are trying to profit off a possibly life-threatening situation.
“It’s as if the airlines are taking advantage of this situation," Traci Melchert told InsideEdition.com. "This is absolutely ridiculous.”
Melchert had begun searching for a plane ticket to fly her 23-year-old son, William, who lives in Tampa, to meet her in Phoenix when she noticed a surge in prices.
Melchert said the airfare was $370 Monday night when she looked up a one-way ticket on American Airlines. The next morning, she says the price had tripled, jumping to $1,100.
The mom said she kept searching and was eventually able to find a flight on Southwest for $688. Her son will fly out Thursday night.
“It’s heartbreaking because if this does hit, these people are stranded, and it’s like airlines are putting a price on human life,” Melchert said. "It may miss Florida but at least give people a chance to get out."
Early morning flights on American Airlines were listed at $350 for a flight from Tampa to Phoenix on Thursday, while flights later in the day averaged around $800 as of Wednesday afternoon. A week from now, flights on American Airline from Tampa to Phoenix ranged from $200 to $500.
American Airlines told InsideEdition.com that the change in price has nothing to do with the storm.
Cathy Cheng, of Miami, said she also noticed outrageous prices for tickets, which she said would usually be much cheaper. She plans to leave Florida to go to Denver as a precaution before the storm, but said flights out of Miami were all sold out and she has to leave from Ft. Lauderdale.
“The first thing that came up was Delta and American Airlines. All the Miami flights were all going up in price. Flights to Denver were all over $1,000,” Cheng said. “As we started trying to book them, they were being sold out.”
Cheng said she eventually found a ticket on Spirit Airlines for just $178. She will leave Friday morning.
“It’s definitely outrageous,” Cheng said. “Thankfully we don’t have ties like family or children in Miami, so we can afford to get out. I just couldn’t believe a domestic flight was costing me more than $1,500. Everything went crazy yesterday.”
Delta did not immediately respond to a call from InsideEdition.com seeking comment.
Many American Airlines flights seemed to be sold out on that route for Friday. Tickets listed on American Airlines listed one flight from Miami to Denver Friday for $596 with two seats left. The majority of other tickets listed for a flight between the two cities on Thursday were above $1,000.
The cheapest flight on Delta on the same route on Friday was $550. There was only one seat left on that flight as of Wednesday afternoon. One other flight showed a ticket above $1,000.
Many said that even when trying to buy the cheaper tickets, the seat is gone by the time their information is entered.
Elaine Di Gregorio Comer, who lives in Miami, said her family can’t afford a ticket out. She is trying to fly out to her daughter's home in New Jersey.
“It is scary,” Comer said. “For those of us who do not drive and are below poverty income, we are screwed. My daughter is so scared she was willing to spend her savings to get me there."
But Comer's daughter only has $500 saved.
JetBlue is making an effort to accommodate customers trying to leave the Florida area by capping ticket prices.
JetBlue will charge a maximum of $99 up to the last available seat for direct flights and a maximum of $159 up to the last available seat for connecting flights, Yahoo Finance reported. That includes government taxes.
For existing reservations, JetBlue is waiving cancellation fees as well as waiving change fees and differences in airfare for rebooking, reports said.
“Given that many Floridians are struggling to get out of harm’s way, this is welcome news,” Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the news site. “I hope more airlines do the right thing and follow suit.”
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