Direct flights from every Florida city in which JetBlue operates are capped at $99, the Huffington Post reports. For connecting flights, tickets will be no more than $159, including taxes.
JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw stated, “we want those trying to leave ahead of the hurricane to focus on their safe evacuation rather than worry about the cost of flights.”
The price caps come following criticism that some airlines were charging excessive prices for flights departing Florida, which was brought to light thanks to social media.
On Tuesday, one evacuee posted an alleged screenshot of Delta flight information from Miami to Phoenix indicating that a ticket price increased from $547.50 to $3,258.50. Afterwards, Delta reached out to the traveler to correct the fare.
United Airlines was also called out for appearing to engage in similar practices.
Since these incidents, and in light of JetBlue’s price cap, Delta and other airlines have followed up with price caps of their own. Delta’s fares are no more than $399 for flights to or from South Florida through September 13. American Airlines is capping one-way economy fares at $99 for travel through that period.
Part of the mix-up may stem from a computer glitch. As Georgia Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, explained to USA Today, “I don’t think airlines would be callous or stupid enough to be consciously jacking up fares. It’s just the computer programs doing what they do when it’s last minute and seats are scarce. If there’s any gouge, it’s just the last minute walk-up airfares that are designed for desperate business fliers.”
The rush to evacuate South Florida comes as Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, made landfall in the Caribbean this week and left unprecedented destruction in some of the Caribbean islands.
Irma will likely continue to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane through Friday, right before it’s expected to reach the Miami area on Sunday.