Flights to and from Puerto Rico are beginning to resume, but airline services are limited after Hurricane Maria pummeled the region. While access to San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) continues to be restricted, several airlines are focusing on special relief and humanitarian flights to bring aid to the battered island.
The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of restoring radars, navigational aids and other equipment damaged during Hurricane Maria. Commercial flights are expected to increase as improvements are made.
Southwest Airlines announced Tuesday that flights in and out of SJU are still restricted following Hurricane Maria’s impact. The airline has canceled scheduled service through Wednesday, including originating flights from SJU through Thursday.
"Rest assured, we are doing everything we can to operate within the limitations we are given to bring relief to San Juan and bring customers from San Juan," the airline said in a statement.
Southwest said it will offer accommodations for people holding reservations through Sunday, Oct. 15.
"Flights may be rebooked in the original class of service or they can travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge," the airline said.
On Sunday, Southwest conducted an assessment and supply flight, bringing back 126 passengers. Another relief flight returned from SJU on Tuesday with 166 passengers.
The company said it has been operating a limited number of daily relief flights since Sunday that are carrying supplies into San Juan and nearly 700 passengers to Orlando.
Southwest said two such flights occurred on Tuesday, and it plans to carry out another two on Wednesday.
JetBlue has scheduled relief flights for Tuesday and Wednesday and other recovery flights are currently being arranged. Most of the relief flights depart from SJU, while one flight departs from Rafael Hernandez Airport (BQN).
Regular operations at SJU are expected to resume on Thursday. There is a reduced schedule at Providenciales International Airport and relief flights are operating at BQN.
As JetBlue continues to aid relief efforts, air fare rates have been reduced on non-stop flights to or from Puerto Rico through Nov. 15. There will be $135 fares for Puerto Rico to/from the U.S. through Oct. 7 and $199 fares Oct. 8 through Nov. 15.
Spirit on Tuesday said it plans to operate two San Juan flights per day until it is able to return to its full schedule.
"We are assessing when full operations can resume, based on airport conditions. On every flight, we are bringing supplies, aid workers and other essential items to help the island recover," the company said in a statement. "We are also working to get as many people off the island as we possibly can."
The budget airline said it has canceled scheduled services in Aguadilla through at least Saturday due to airport conditions, but on Wednesday will send one rescue flight stocked with supplies and aid workers.
Limited service to San Juan resumed on Friday, with three flights carrying relief supplies to Puerto Rico. The airline extended its cap on one-way nonstop fares to/from San Juana at $99 for the main cabin and $199 for premium cabins through Oct. 8, according to a news release.
On September 27, a flight is scheduled to depart from Miami International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport. Two flights are scheduled to depart from SJU on the same day.
25 flights were canceled on Sept. 26. Customers whos flights were canceled may choose to cancel their itinerary and receive a full refund, the news release said.