Airlines Issue Travel Waivers as Hurricane Fiona Hits Caribbean

All of the major US airlines are waiving changes and cancellations for numerous flights to and from the Caribbean as Hurricane Fiona landed in the Dominican Republic on Monday after wreaking havoc in Puerto Rico over the weekend.

After operations were suspended at San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in Puerto Rico on Sunday, flights were able to resume as of 11 am local time on Monday, according to a message on Twitter posted by Aeropuerto SJU, which oversees the hub’s operations. According to the post, the runways have been inspected, and the traffic control tower is not damaged. “It is up to each airline to determine when they feel they can fly,” the Twitter message stated.

The airports in Ponce and Mayagüez were inoperative Monday due to flooding, according to the Puerto Rico Emergency Portal System (PREPS). Aguadilla airport was operating at 100 percent, PREPS reported, and Arecibo and Humacao were being inspected on Monday.

But with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi describing the damages in Puerto as “catastrophic,” and with many people still without water and electricity, it could be days or longer before many services return to the island.

On Monday morning, Fiona was centered about 10 miles southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 8 miles per hour. The storm is expected to move into the Atlantic in the afternoon and pass close to the Turks and Caicos islands on Tuesday. It could threaten the far southern end of the Bahamas on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

For those who need or want to change their travel plans to the region, thankfully all of the major US carriers dropped their change fees during the pandemic for all but Basic Economy fares, making it very easy and convenient for travelers to cancel and change their flights. , including in times of crisis such as this. The new policies allow travelers to cancel their flight and immediately get flight credit that can be applied to future travel.

But some of the airlines have gone a step further and are waiving the fare difference or dropping the change fee for Basic Economy fares as well as for flights during and in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.

Airlines’ Hurricane Fiona rebooking policies

United has issued a Hurricane Fiona travel waiver for travel to and from Puerto Rico. The original ticket must have been purchased by September 17, 2022, for travel that takes place September 19–25, 2022. The change fee and any fare difference are being waived for travel between the same cities and must be rebooked by October 2, 2022 For a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but not the fare difference.

American isn’t waiving the fare difference but is waiving the change fee for Basic Economy fares as well as all other fare classes for a large swath of travel in the Caribbean as long as the ticket was purchased by September 14, 2022, for travel that was scheduled September 17-21, 2022.

Delta has dropped the fare difference for most Caribbean travel through September 23, 2022, for the same cabin of service as originally booked. Bookings for travel scheduled to take place after September 23, 2022, will have a fare difference applied but there will be no change fee—as always.

Southwest customers who were booked to travel to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, or San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 17-20, 2022, can rebook in the original class of service for no added charge.

JetBlue is waiving the change fee and fare differences for travel that was scheduled to take place September 16-19, 2022, to and from Puerto Rico, and for travel that was scheduled to take place September 18-19, 2022, to and from the Dominican Republic. JetBlue has gone a step further and has issued a change fee and fare difference waiver for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos—where the storm is headed next—for travel that was scheduled to take place September 19-20.

How can travel insurance help?

Of course, travel is about more than just the flight. Some travelers may be midjourney and may need additional rebooking assistance, or have hotels, car rentals, and other experiences booked that may not offer a full refund.

If the travel was booked with a credit card, be sure to check your credit card benefits portfolio. Many credit cards include travel insurance coverage such as trip cancellation and interruption coverage and trip delay coverage.

If you don’t have travel insurance coverage through a credit card and are hoping to add it last-minute to cover an upcoming trip, it won’t be useful with regards to Hurricane Fiona-related disruptions. Once a natural disaster such as Hurricane Fiona has struck and is considered a known or foreseeable event, it is no longer covered by most travel insurance policies. The only exception is “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage, an optional upgrade to a standard travel insurance plan that typically needs to be purchased within 7 to 21 days of making the initial trip deposit. So if you bought travel insurance prior to the arrival of Hurricane Fiona or decided to add CFAR coverage within the required time frame, you should expect some protection.

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