American Cancels ALL Miami Flights This Weekend In Anticipation Of Hurricane Irma

Filed Under: Advice, American

American Airlines appears to be anticipating a shutdown of Miami Airport on Friday and Saturday, and has preemptively canceled all operations.

This is probably a good decision, as unlike some airports, MIA isn’t equipped for high-wind situations. The terminal itself isn’t designated as a safe shelter in the event of a hurricane, and the FAA tower closes when wind speeds exceed 55mph. With forecasts calling for 140mph winds and greater, the airport will almost certainly have to close.

As of now, every AA-operated flight in or out of Miami is showing as cancelled as of Friday evening:

  

At present, flights are still technically scheduled to operate in/out of nearby Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, but most inventory has been zeroed out. American likely expects to cancel these as well.

If you’re flying an airline other than American, and your flight hasn’t been officially canceled yet, you can probably still change it. If the airport closes nothing will be operating, so you might as well get ahead of the curve (more on that below).

Other Florida airports

At the time of writing, we’re only seeing widespread cancelations at Miami International, but that could change with the weather. Hurricane forecasts aren’t super reliable until just a few days before they hit (one of the things that makes evacuation plans so difficult), so at this point it’s hard to say exactly what will happen.

This video shows the anticipated path, with winds expected to hit the Florida mainland late Saturday:

That being said, hurricanes are fickle, and as I understand it, a shift of even 10 miles can change the equation entirely. If the storm does make that sharp turn to the North, it might not hit (and likely devastate) Miami, but would still be extremely destructive. A slightly less-sharp turn would have much more severe impacts on Miami, and potentially more Eastern airports like Orlando and even Tampa and Sarasota.

There’s no way to truly predict what will happen.

But, if you have plans to fly in or through Florida in the next week, I’d probably look at canceling or changing your itinerary. Best case, flight operations are going to be a mess, as planes and crews won’t be in the right places. The worst case is indescribable.

If you are planning on flying out of Florida in the next five days (either because you’re evacuating or due to prior plans), you’re going to want to be incredibly aggressive about monitoring your flights. Flights are going to be full, and both availability and conditions can change rapidly.

Change your flights for free

In general, the airlines are going to accommodate you if you’re able or willing to move your plans around — after all, they don’t benefit from having cranky passengers stuck in the terminal either. There are nuances to each policy though, so you can see the individual policies on the airline sites.

Anyway, you can find the current change rules for each airline here:

Keep in mind that as the severity of the storm increases, the parameters of the waiver can change. Given what we’re seeing with the forecast, I wouldn’t be surprised if the date ranges on these waivers are expanded again, at a minimum. Some people have already reported being able to cancel and refund their flights for free, even if the carrier’s waiver doesn’t specifically allow it.

Basically — call.

Tips for rebooking

Regardless of the reason for flight cancelations, phone queues can get ugly fast. Given that many people need to rebook at the same time, you might be able to get new plans confirmed more quickly by using an alternate method. Miami is a massive international hub, so this is going to get complicated quickly.

Try the club lounge

Don’t wait until Friday, but if you’re already at the airport en route to/from/through Florida, start with the lounge agents. They tend to have fewer passengers to deal with than the gate agents, and thus may have more time (and more patience), when it comes to rebooking your flight.

Reach out on social media

I’ve had good luck changing flights by sending direct messages to American via Twitter. Several other airlines have a Twitter presence as well, and while they might not be able to fix your reservation, it’s worth trying:

Avoid the domestic call centers

If you’re willing to spend a few dollars on Skype or Google Voice credit, calling the international call center for an airline can often save you an hour or more of hold time.

Almost all of these call centers have an English-speaking option, but you can also call Australia, or even just Canadian numbers can get you through faster.

¿Hablas Español?

If you have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish (like, just enough to get through the computer system), you can try the Spanish-speaking numbers. Again, fewer people calling means shorter hold times, and the agents typically speak English as well.

  • American Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-633-3711
  • Southwest Spanish line: 1-800-VAMONOS
  • United Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-426-5561

Be your own advocate

This is maybe more a life philosophy than one specific to travel disruptions, but it holds true — no one cares about you (or your travel) as much as you do.

So be nice, but ask questions, present alternatives, be prepared to book your own hotel rather than waiting in line with a hundred other people for a voucher, and so forth.

If you stand around and wait, you will almost certainly have a worse time than those who are actively finding solutions to the situation.

Check your credit card coverage

If you purchased your tickets with a credit card, you may have some additional protection and benefits when your flight is delayed. Check with your credit card company, or see our list of popular travel cards with good delay coverage.

These cards will often cover your hotel, or the cost of a new flight, and so forth, so it’s good to know both the benefits and the requirements to file a claim.

Bottom line

This is looking to be another VERY serious storm. As I say every time we have a weather event, you want to be as proactive as possible in these situations. Pay attention to your flight, along with the status of your inbound aircraft, and be prepared to react quickly and creatively.

If you have plans to travel to the region, I’d suggest rescheduling now, as it looks like the ground situation is going to be messy at best. And keep in mind that even if you aren’t traveling in, to, or through the storm corridor, your aircraft might be, so you could still be impacted by this storm.

This isn’t a situation you can control, but you can lessen the impact on your life. The best thing to do is pay attention, and be as proactive as you can.

If you’re in the path of the storm, please be safe!

Comments
  1. I am based out of CLT which is one of American’s biggest hubs and a huge connection center. We are beginning to anticipate a lot of stranded passengers at the airport. Hopefully AMR will pull the flights to prevent this.

  2. they sent me a text this morning notifying my Friday 12:00pm MIA-GRU was canceled. It’s a little ridiculous. Hurricane is supposed to make landfall sometime Sunday early morning. Of course they have no other seats left out of any of the 3 local airports.

  3. @ Steve — It’s annoying, but less ridiculous than you might think. That aircraft typically does a direct turn in Sao Paulo, which would have that flight coming in on early Saturday morning, provided everything is on time. Winds happen while before landfall, so the Miami airport could very well be closed by then, meaning the flight would then have to divert to an open international airport with customs facilities, and probably very few options for connections. Or keep the plane (and crew) in Brazil until the airport reopens.

    American has 70% of the market share at MIA, and over 9,000 employees based there. Canceling operations early not only makes logistical sense for passengers, but allows those employees time to make their own emergency/evacuation preparations.

  4. Steve,
    Try TAMPA (TPA), you might have luck there. Rent a car one way and request to re-imburse with AA. I see a few seat to GRU out of TPA this Friday.

  5. They found me a flight to Santiago leaving Friday as well on LAN and a 2 hour layover there and then on to GRU.

    @Tiffany – I understand their dilemma but they could have flown us down there and come back with an empty plane to DFW or whatever HUB they choose to store the planes. I am loyal to AA only because they basically own MIA airport and there is not better airline to go to Brazil/Latin America.

  6. I live in Florida and I live in Jacksonville. All schools here are getting Friday and Monday off. Hope our houses stay safe. Though we will most likely have to evacuate as were getting a direct strike.

  7. Had flights out of MIA Friday am that were canceled… now we are trying to figure out how to get finished battoning down the hatches and get out of here… not happy with AA stranding a lot of Floridians here in the path of Irma. Irma not expected to affect Miami till Sat pm at the earliest, don’t think they took their customers lives into consideration! AA just lost a fan today!

  8. Delta’s call center time was 2 hours. I got through the Spanish line in 10 minutes. I do speak Spanish but the agent was happy enough to conduct the conversation in English, which is my primary language.

  9. American loves to proactively cancel flights now. I had a flight cancelled 7 hours in advance out of DFW because of 40 pct chance of storms. It was a great move to just shuffle everyone onto later flights and the next morning that had space and scrub the cost of a flight. No compensation due to affected travellers and weather excuse used. In fact I was charged a change fee and the cost of fare diff. Even a complaint to the DOT wouldn’t get them to refund the fare diff portion. Hopefully, Irma goes out to sea.

  10. Can you not cancel a flight during a travel advisory. Had a Thursday flight down to Miami and a Sunday flight back up north. Of course, I don’t want to go down due to the hurricane. AA said my only option was to move the date? Can’t cancel for a refund?

  11. I spent about an hour today trying to look for AA flights out of MIA. I did get some phantom availability on AA’s site, but nothing bookable. The OTAs were showing a lot more phantom availability.

  12. Sorry, but this is not out of “an abundance of caution”, American simply does not want to fly in equipment empty, even it leaves passengers stranded here in Miami, they have already cancelled 7 a.m. flights, wind here is about 5 mph, so don’t blow smoke up our intakes, tropical storm winds won’t arrive for 2 days!

    The incoming flight were cancelled last night, purely financial reasons!

  13. I have a flight on QR Doha to Miami on the 11th september which is a Monday, there is a possibility it may not take off from Doha? if the MIA airport is still closed.From my previous experiences with Hurricanes, by day 3 after the hit, airports become fully functional. I have a flight out of Miami on the 16th so hoping all goes well, I may get to Miami a day or two late but hoping that IRMA veers to the right and causes less damage.
    Not looking forward to this episode..

  14. Like @Yehuda above, I too am flying through Miami next week. Obviously it will all depend on where Irma strikes and the damage it leaves behind but what are the chances my flight Tuesday morning the 12th, from MIA to Barbados actually happens?

  15. Shameful that they are not issuing credit to anyone who had booked a flight to Florida during the hurricane. We were supposed to leave Thursday for Orlando and travel home Sunday. Our only option was to either go and hope for the best, cancel and rebook within a few days to pretty much the same destination, or lose all of our money. We had insurance but found out it does not cover a hurricane. We were not going to risk our lives and go down and do not want to reschedule within the time frame given since the uncertainty of the storm is still unknown and traveling within 300 miles of our original destination still keeps us in harms way. We are not asking for a refund but a credit for a future flight. Since the answer was no, we will do our best to never fly American Airlines again and make sure everyone we know learns about our experience.

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