Airlines waive change fees as Hurricane Florence threatens to snarl travel

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Airlines are allowing passengers to change their travel plans as Hurricane Florence spins closer to the U.S. East Coast.

could hit the southeastern U.S. or mid-Atlantic region by the end of the week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

American Airlines on Monday said travelers whose plans could be affected by the storm will be able to change their travel dates without paying change fees, which can cost $200 plus a difference in fare, if they can travel between Sept. 10 and Sept. 19.

The waivers for Hurricane Florence cover 23 airports, including Charlotte Douglas Airport, American’s second-largest hub, where it has about 670 flights a day. So far, American Airlines flights have not been canceled due to the storm, the carrier said.

Southwest Airlines said travelers booked into six cities in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia can rebook their flights within 14 days of their original dates with no additional cost. Southwest does not charge a fee to change travel dates but it usually will charge passengers the difference in fare.

While the storm is not expected to make landfall until the end of the week, airlines try to issue waivers early to avoid travelers getting stuck at the airport.

During big storms, they try to cancel flights ahead of time so crews are not out of place when operations resume. They will also routinely keep aircraft away from affected airports.

“We want to obviously keep our most important assets away from inclement weather,” said American Airlines’ spokesman Ross Feinstein.

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