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:
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) September 6, 2017
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:
- Air Canada
- Virgin America
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.
- Air Canada international reservations
- American Airlines international reservations
- Delta Air Lines international reservations
- JetBlue international reservations
- United international reservations
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.
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!