Change fee waivers and flexible rebooking policies are now in place at every big airline serving the mid-Atlantic area that’s expected to be in the path of Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4 storm that could bring “catastrophic” damage.
Those flexible-rebooking policies initially included airports in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. But by Tuesday morning, the policies at Southwest extended as far north as Maryland to include the carrier’s busy base at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI). Also included in Southwest's relaxed rebooking policy were the Washington-area's busy Reagan National and Dulles airports.
The exact path of Florence still has some uncertainty, but meteorologists appear increasingly confident the storm will make landfall along the coast of Carolinas or – possibly – Virginia.
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Wherever Florence hits, it will almost certainly disrupt flights – not only at airports along the coast but also inland after the storm moves ashore.
“It’s really difficult to speculate this far out, since there’s still significant uncertainty in the track,” Sara Orsi, spokeswoman for flight-tracking service FlightAware, said about how Florence might impact flights after landfall.
“Based on current models, it’s likely that the biggest impact will be to the Charlotte airport, which is an American Airlines hub,” she said. “If the storm turns north toward D.C., more airlines will be impacted.”
While Orsi warned “never to say never,” she said “it seems unlikely” that Florence’s effect on flights “will be on the same level as Harvey, Irma or Sandy.”
Cancellations from the storm are not likely to begin hitting schedules until midday Wednesday, she predicted.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario for flight schedules is if Florence stalls after moving on shore while blocking the busy flight routes along the Atlantic coast.
A Category 4 hurricane has winds of 130 to 156 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity.
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