Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall in Puerto Rico; Airlines Expand Travel Waivers

Sep 20, 2017

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Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, pummeling the island with Category 4 winds and rain. Images coming out of Puerto Rico and surrounding islands that have already been affected by the hurricane show the devastation left in its wake.

Now, Hurricane Maria is expected to continue its movement to the northwest before curving along the Atlantic coast of the US. According to the National Hurricane Center‘s 11:00am ET report on Wednesday, the forward speed of the storm is expected to slow through Friday morning because of interference by Puerto Rico’s mountainous terrain. Currently, Maria is still a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 140mph.

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As it stands now, the center of the storm will move offshore of the northern coast of Puerto Rico within the next couple of hours before passing offshore on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic Wednesday night. Between Thursday night and Friday, Maria is expected to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas.

WEATHER WAIVERS

If you are traveling in the area, you can take advantage of travel waivers issued by many airlines, allowing you to change your travel plans. If you aren’t yet there, these weather waivers will let you rebook your trip to avoid the area until the storm passes. For those in the area, you might want to book yourself on an earlier flight to get out before the storm reaches you.

Below is a map of all the airports affected by waivers:

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If you are stuck due to the storm, airlines aren’t going to be responsible for paying for your meals or hotels in the case of weather-related delays/cancellations. That’s why we recommend paying for flights with cards have flight delay/cancellation insurance that can reimburse you for weather issues, including the Citi Prestige, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred. My Citi Prestige personally came in handy a few weeks ago when I got stuck in Japan due to a typhoon-related flight cancellation.

As of this writing, here are the available travel waivers for this storm:

American Airlines

  • Travel dates: September 18-26
  • Airports affected: Antigua, Antigua (ANU); Bridgetown, Barbados (BGI); Cap Haitien, Haiti (CAP); Fort de France, Martinique (FDF); Port Au Prince (PAP); Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (POP); Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ); San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU); Santiago, Dominican Republic (STI); Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (SDQ); St. Croix Island, U.S. Virgin Islands (STX); St. Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis (SKB); St. Lucia, Saint Lucia (UVF)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 18
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 17-October 2
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

Caribbean Irma waivers

  • Travel dates: September 5-October 31, 2017
  • Airports affected: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands (PLS); St. Thomas Island, US Virgin Islands (STT)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 18
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 10-December 31, 2017
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.
  • Travel dates: September 5-August 31, 2018
  • Airports affected: St. Maarten, Saint Maarten (SXM)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 18, 2017
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 10-September 30, 2018
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

Delta

  • Travel dates: September 19-26
  • Airports affected: Punta Cana, DO (PUJ); Santiago, DS (STI); Santo Domingo, DO (SDQ); San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: October 2
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 2, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue.
  • If travel cannot be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.

Caribbean Irma waivers

  • Travel dates: September 5-October 31
  • Airports affected: St. Thomas, VI (STT) and Turks Caicos ISLS, TC (PLS)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: October 31, 2018
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 31, 2018, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue.
  • If travel cannot be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.
  • Travel dates: September 5-December 31
  • Airports affected: St. Maarten SX (SXM)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: October 31, 2018
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 31, 2018, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue.
  • If travel cannot be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.

Frontier

  • Travel dates: September 18-22
  • Airports affected: San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 18
  • Rebooked travel must be completed no later than October 29
  • Origin and destination cities may be changed.
  • One change available. Rules/restrictions regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay requirements will be waived.

JetBlue

  • Travel dates: September 19-23
  • Airports affected: Aguadilla, PR (BQN); Antigua (ANU); Barbados (BGI); La Romana, DR (LRM); Ponce, PR (PSE); Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (PLS); Puerto Plata, DR (POP); Punta Cana, DR (PUJ); San Juan, PR (SJU); Santiago, DR (STI); Santo Domino, DR (SDQ); St. Croix (STX); St. Lucia (UVF); St. Maarten (SXM); St. Thomas (STT)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 17
  • Rebook travel anytime through September 30
  • To rebook travel or request a refund online, click here. If you are already checked in for your flight, call [JetBlue] at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) for assistance with rebooking or a credit.
  • Note that the following airports still have Irma waivers available:
    • St. Maarten (SXM) for travel through May 1, 2018
    • Turks & Caicos (PLS) for travel through December 15
    • St. Thomas (STT) for travel through January 15, 2018
    • Santa Clara, Cuba (SNU) for travel through September 30

Southwest

  • Travel dates: September 18-26
  • Airports affected: San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and and Punta Cana (PUJ)
  • Customers who are holding reservations for flights departing during these dates, and want to alter their travel plans may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with Southwest’s accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.

Spirit Airlines

  • Travel dates: September 18-20
  • Airports affected: Aguadilla, PR (BQN) and San Juan, PR (SJU)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: September 30
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.
  • Travel dates: September 19-21
  • Airports affected: Port-au-Prince, HT (PAP); Santiago, DR (STI); Santo Domingo, DR (SDQ)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: September 27
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.
  • Travel dates: September 5-October 31
  • Airports affected: St. Maarten, SX (SXM) and St. Thomas, USVI (STT)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: November 15
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.

United

  • Travel dates: September 18-30
  • Airports affected: Aguadilla, PR, US (BQN); Providenciales, TC (PLS); Puerto Plata, DO (POP); Punta Cana, DO (PUJ); San Juan, PR, US (SJU); Santiago, DO (STI); Santo Domingo, DO (SDQ)
  • ​​​​​​The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing between September 17-October 7, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​
  • Note that the following airports still have Irma waivers available:
    • Providenciales, TC (PLS)​; St. Thomas, VI (STT)​; St. Maarten, SX (SXM)​ for travel through October 31
    • Antigua, AG (ANU) and Nassau, BS (NAS)​ for travel through September 30​

Featured image by Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images.

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