Airlines scramble as they prepare for Irma

Airlines scramble as they prepare for Irma

Airlines scramble as they prepare for Irma

Hurricane Irma - now a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour - is expected to hit South Florida by late Saturday or early Sunday.

But flights out of the area remained extremely limited.

Major carriers have largely closed up shop at Florida airports after flying as many passengers as possible out of the path of the storm and giving their staff time to prepare. The Fort Worth-based carrier said it has canceled more than 2,500 flights as of Friday stretching through September 11. American Airlines added 3,600 seats and 16 flights out of Miami.

The airline extended cancellations in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic through Friday and scrubbed flights in Cuba and the Bahamas Friday and Saturday. Three other flights had attempted to get into San Juan, but turned back, according to Flightradar24 tracking.

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Late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center issued the first hurricane warning for the Keys and parts of South Florida, including some of the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people. Harvey eviscerated the airline's operations in Houston, canceling 7,400. "Airline personnel are working diligently to assist travelers that are trying to leave Florida in advance of the storm". Though the state's anti-price gouging statues don't cover airline tickets, a spokeswoman said that they have contacted airlines requesting voluntary compliance.

JetBlue Airways Corp. will park planes primarily in NY and Boston, said Doug McGraw, a spokesman.

Farther north in South Carolina, Boeing said it was suspending manufacturing operations starting on Saturday morning.

It's not just commercial airlines getting out of Irma's path.

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"I have been calling 311 to get information about shelters that are available and no one answers the phone", Hernandez said. For instance, St. Petersburg-based United Insurance Holdings said on its website that its target market consists of "areas where the perceived threat of natural catastrophe has caused large national insurance carriers to reduce their concentration of policies".

Since Wednesday, Delta has added 24 extra flights, carrying more than 5,000 extra seats, in Florida and the Caribbean.

"Some people just traveled up to Orlando where it's expected to be more safe because it's inland", said Davis. American says it will continue to evaluate operations at other Florida airports, and will make adjustments as necessary.

Also affected by the storm, Carnival Cruise Lines, which has major operations out of Florida ports, said on Thursday it had cancelled four of its Caribbean cruises, though it still planned to operate several more under modified itineraries.

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