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As Hurricane Dorian tore through the Bahamas and continued on its uncertain path to the United States, governors in South Carolina and Georgia ordered evacuations and airlines waived fees and penalties for travelers canceling and rescheduling their plans.
More than 580 flights scheduled for Monday were canceled, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking website; 45 cruise sailings across seven cruise lines, including Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and MSC, were also affected by the hurricane.
Amtrak canceled some trips in the Southeast through Tuesday, and Florida’s governor suspended tolls on the Florida Turnpike, the stretch of Interstate 75 known as Alligator Alley and other highways.
Which airports are closing?
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB) closed at noon on Monday while Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) will close at 6 p.m. More than 200 flights were canceled into and out of Orlando International Airport, and another 160 were canceled into and out of Fort Lauderdale.
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) suspended commercial flights.
In the Bahamas, Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO) in Freeport closed on Friday and is scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 3, though a statement from the airport noted that the opening “is subject to prevailing conditions.” The storm hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on Monday morning, with its progress slowing to a crawl. Photographs and videos show extensive damage.
Are airlines offering discounted fares?
With the path of the hurricane still shifting, some airlines are offering lower, capped prices on flights out of Florida, and some are waiving baggage and pet fees. Airlines also added new airports in the Carolinas and Georgia to their waivers, allowing travelers to cancel and reschedule flights for no penalty.
Delta capped fares on nonstop flights out of Florida at between $299 and $599 in the main cabin and between $499 and $799 in the forward cabin, from now through Sept. 4. American Airlines capped fares at $499 one-way nonstop in economy or $699 in domestic first class. JetBlue did not announce that it was capping flights, but a search out of several Florida airports showed lower flight prices than are common, with most flights at $199.
American Airlines added eight airlines in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to its waiver, which previously included flights to, from and through Florida. Flights to, from and through the following airports now have capped prices, and no baggage and pet fees: Charleston (CHS), Hilton Head (HHH) and Myrtle Beach (MYR) in South Carolina; Greenville (PGV), Jacksonville (OAJ), Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern (EWN) and Wilmington International (ILM) in North Carolina; and Savannah, Hilton Head Airport in Georgia (SAV).
JetBlue added Charleston and Savannah to its waiver.
United added Charleston, Hilton Head Island, Myrtle Beach, Savannah, and Wilmington to its waiver.
Southwest added Charleston to its waiver.
What if I am traveling with my pet?
In addition to waiving cancellation and change fees, many airlines are also waiving pet and baggages fees for flights out of Florida.
People flying out of one of the airports included in American’s waiver can have the fee for in-cabin pets waived and can check two bags for free. The number of carry-on pets allowed in the cabin is temporarily lifted for these same cities.
Delta also said it is waiving baggage and in-cabin pet fees for passengers flying from seven Florida airports between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4.
What about hotels?
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, a nonprofit hospitality trade association that includes 10,000 restaurant and hotel members, urged its members to waive cancellation fees.
Diamond Resorts is waiving cancellation fees at its coastal resorts of The Cove on Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach Regency, Crescent Resort on South Beach and the Charter Club of Naples Bay.
“Our teams are on the ground preparing for the storm, and will comply with any mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders that may be issued,” said Mike Flaskey, the chief executive of Diamond Resorts.
Rosen Hotels and Resorts, which includes eight hotels in the Orlando area, waived its cancellation fees for the weekend. The company will allow tourists who are stuck in the area to stay at a discounted price and is offering discounted prices to locals. Pet fees are waived at these hotels as well.
Marriott said that its hotels in the path of the hurricane have implemented storm preparation protocols and that affected hotels are reviewing their cancellation fees. Cancellation details may vary from hotel to hotel, so the company urges guests to contact their specific property.
Guests at Wyndham hotels will not be charged a fee for canceling reservations that are in ZIP codes that have been declared evacuation or hurricane warning zones 48 hours before the storm makes landfall.
Airbnb put its Open Homes program into effect in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina on Friday. The program encourages Airbnb hosts to open their homes to evacuees for free.
What is the status of Disney World and Disney cruises?
In Florida, Walt Disney World Resort continued to operate under normal conditions, but Disney Cruise Line received backlash on social media when the sister of an employee shared on Twitter that some staffers had been left on Castaway Cay, the company’s private island in the Bahamas.
The company insisted that all employees were safe and in a hurricane shelter.
“We are in regular contact with island leadership, who is making sure our Crew is well taken care of in our storm shelter, which is designed for these types of situations and has restrooms, power and is well stocked with food and water,” the company said in a statement.
By Tariro Mzezewa