Partial Refunds Available for Some Passengers Who Fled Irma

Joanna Cardwell is expected to get a partial refund after paying more than $1600 to flee Hurricane Irma with her mother and son.

She was one of thousands of passengers who scrambled to find flights out of town as Hurricane Irma seemed to have South Florida in its sights.

Her husband is a first responder in the Florida Keys and he stayed behind to help with rescue efforts.

"He knew he wasn’t going to be able to be with us for the storm so he wanted us to get out,"  she told NBC 6 by Skype from Alabama.

Her mother had been visiting so Cardwell needed to change her flight to get her back home.

"She’s elderly and I really need to get her out I can’t have her stuck here and not get her medication," Cardwell said.

She paid close to $700 to change her mother's flight. She paid another $900 for two one-way tickets for her and her son.

Two days after they bought those tickets, American and other airlines capped ticket prices. 

George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog doesn't think the price change was done for profit.

"I really think that the airlines wouldn’t be so stupid to profiteer from a disaster," Hobica said.  "I think these price jumps were really just the computers doing what computers do. They’re programmed to sell the last seat on a plane at a higher fare than somebody who bought it 21 days in advance."

An American Airlines spokesperson sent a statement about people like Cardwell who faced high ticket prices.

The statement read, “If a passenger booked Sept. 5/6, before we capped fares, they can contact our reservations team to request a refund of the difference.”

Joanna is hopeful she'll be able to recover more than $1000 she spent. 

Meanwhile, she acted quickly when she saw two tickets back to Miami at a reasonable price.

"I just grabbed the $99 flights and that’s it," she said.

NBC 6 Responds reached out to sevearl airlines that service South Florida. Below are their policies for return flights.

American Airlines

“To help us return to normal operations quickly, we capped one-way nonstop fares at $99 for Main Cabin and $199 for premium cabins (connecting fares may be higher) through Sept. 17 to or from all cities covered under the Travel Alert in Florida, as well as Charleston, S.C., Hilton Head, S.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Savannah, Ga.”


“We’ve made it easier for Southwest Customers to view, find, and book our lowest fares by removing advance purchase requirements for nonstop routes to/from impacted Florida cities. As you may be aware, we never charge change fees and we haven’t changed our pricing structures--we certainly have not implemented any fare increases. We also added extra flights to get our Employee’s out of harm’s way and back home again. These same measures were taken for Houston last week.”


“In cases where a customer purchased a ticket within 24 hours of the fare decreasing we would offer a offer a refund of the fare difference. Delta has capped one-way fares in all cabins at $399 for flights to and from southern Florida through Sept. 17. Delta has been examining and adjusting fares in Florida since early this week, when Irma's path became apparent and demand to fly out of the area surged.” 


“While we continue to work to re-accommodate customers with previously cancelled JetBlue flights, any remaining seats for Florida flights departing through Sept. 18 are available on jetblue.com at a reduced fare of $99 for direct flights and $159 for connecting flights. Fares are for one-way direct flights with seat availability through Sept. 18 in select markets including CHS, DAB, FLL, RSW, JAX, MCO, SAV, SRQ, TPA, and PBI. We will update markets and dates available as conditions change.For customers with existing scheduled flights, JetBlue continues to waive cancellation fees as well as waiving change fees and differences in air fare for rebooking.” 

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