Airlines Scrambling Ahead Of Hurricane Irma’s Landfall In Florida

CHICAGO (CBS) — While many people in Florida are scrambling to leave before Hurricane Irma makes landfall there this weekend, some people in the Chicago area were still heading into the storm zone, despite the dangerous forecast.

Airlines are keeping a close eye on Irma, which was still a catastrophic category 5 hurricane Thursday morning as it churned across the Dominican Republic and Haiti toward Cuba.

Some airlines already have begun canceling flights to Florida for the weekend.

Joseph Cipriano has been trying to book a flight for his girlfriend to get out of Miami, to no avail.

“I tried getting her a flight out, and it’s completely booked; every flight out of Florida until Monday,” he said. “I heard it’s pretty bad, so pretty worried, you know? I never heard out of no flights out of an entire state.”

American Airlines is one of the airlines most affected by Irma, as it operates a major hub in Miami, and controls nearly 40 percent of the flights in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale region. American has said it will begin winding down operations in the region on Friday afternoon, and has cancelled all flights over the weekend.

Southwest Airlines also has said it is cancelling flights to and from South Florida from Friday night at least through Saturday. The airline also has canceled flights to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Cuba.

While remaining flights out of Florida are full, sources said flights heading into the region have up to 80 empty seats in some cases.

However, some travelers are still headed to Florida for vacation. The Massing family, of Elkhart, Indiana, was on their way to Disney World in Orlando.

“I think it’s good that we’re up north, we’re inland, we’re going to be in a resort that’s fortified, you know? I guess. More than a house, right?” Andrew Massing said.

“We’ve had this trip planned for a few months. We go every two years,” Emily Massing said. “I asked if we could reschedule, but we’re good.”

So far, flights to Florida were still on time Thursday morning, but that could change as the storm moves west through the Caribbean.

Officials at Miami International Airport have said they will shut down their air control tower if winds top out above 155 mph. At last check, Irma was generating winds of more than 180 mph.

The storm also has raised concerns about price gouging by some airlines. Apparently some airlines were charging as much as $3,000 for a single seat on flights out of the storm zone. JetBlue and American have capped prices at $99 for people trying to fly out of the storm zone.

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