Airlines cap flight prices out of Florida, but empty seats are hard to find

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Flying out of Miami was getting pricey without fee caps.
Flying out of Miami was getting pricey without fee caps.

Image: DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images

UPDATED 3:48 p.m. PT with comment from Delta.

It may be close to impossible to get a flight out of Florida with Hurricane Irma breathing down the coastal state’s neck, but if you do snag something it likely won’t cost an arm and a leg as earlier reports have stated.

Airlines like Delta were called out Wednesday for what looked like price gouging. One flight in particular was passed around with a shocking price increase from $547.50 to more than $3,000 to fly out of Miami. Historic Hurricane Irma is expected to pass over or very close to South Florida on Saturday night into Sunday as a Category 4 or 5 storm.

Following the PR nightmare, Delta capped flight prices at $399 Wednesday afternoon. “They were put in place to support the demand of travelers escaping the path of hurricane Irma,” a Delta representative said. 

JetBlue also capped its flights at $99 for direct flights out of the state. American Airlines and United’s caps are the same as Delta’s, according to Yahoo Finance

Price algorithms used by airlines generally bump up ticket costs when last-minute demand increases as supply is limited, unless there’s a manual cap. 

After looking into flights out of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday, we found fairly reasonable prices with the occasional jaw-dropping price tag like this Miami-Atlanta United flight starting at $1,758. Otherwise most flights were sold out, like all Southwest trips from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Atlanta. Once sold out, it’s hard to tell how much a ticket for that particular flight cost.

Most airlines were also offering waivers, like on Virgin America and Delta flights canceled in the next few days. 

The bigger issue now is even getting a flight amid cancellations, airport closures, and sold-out trips as landfall approaches over the weekend.

On Thursday, Delta announced more flights added to help move people out of the hurricane zone.

The surge in flight demand out of Florida is pretty noticeable when looking at Google searches over the past week.

Instead of flying many are hitting the road out of Florida, like this scene out of Georgia, where bumper-to-bumper traffic is another nightmare.

Irma is coming down hard on travel options — and the storm hasn’t even made landfall yet.

Rachel Kraus contributed reporting.

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