FORT MYERS, Fla. Airline seats out of Florida before Hurricane Irma are running out.
A JetBlue spokesman said Thursday that the airline sold out flights leaving Florida through next Wednesday. JetBlue had capped fares on those flights at $99 to $159 each way.
A spokesman for United says the airline is sold out in Florida through Friday and added six flights. United expects to cancel most flights to and from southern Florida from Saturday through Monday.
American Airlines has limited seats left before Irma hits, according to a spokesman. He says American has capped those prices at $99 in economy and $199 for premium one-way through Sept. 17.
American says it will shut down after Friday in Fort Myers, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and on Saturday afternoon in Orlando and cancel flights the rest of the weekend.
Delta Air Lines has seats on “very few flights” in south Florida but more at airports farther north including central Florida, said spokesman Anthony Black.
Delta says it’s adding flights and will use larger planes to add more than 2,000 seats for passengers in Irma’s path in Florida and the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.
Some passengers have gone on social media to accuse airlines of exorbitant price hikes ahead of the storm. The airlines deny price-gouging.
A public relations consultant said a Delta ticket from Miami to Phoenix on Expedia for her friends’ daughter jumped from $547 to more than $3,200.
Expedia spokeswoman Sarah Gavin said her company couldn’t replicate the woman’s story because one of the flights had sold out. She said it’s likely that the first ticket was economy on both legs but that the higher price included a flight in business class after economy sold out.
On any given flight, airlines sell batches of tickets with different restrictions and prices. Usually the lower fares sell out first.
“This was a tough window to be a consumer,” Gavin said. “What happens is when there is an emergency like this demand increases, supply decreases, and the prices from the airlines go up.” But she doesn’t believe they were gouging consumers.
Two Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, asked the Transportation Department to investigate the gouging complaints.