UPDATE: Delta adds 5,000 seats to flights leaving Florida

Updated at 10 a.m. PDT, Sept. 8

Although downgraded to a Category 4, Hurricane Irma continues to roar through the Caribbean toward Florida. In response, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) has added more than 5,000 extra seats and 24 extra flights in Florida, the Caribbean and the Bahamas to help customers leave those areas.

Delta’s Strategic Planning Team in the airline’s Operations and Customer Center, along with the airline’s meteorologists and other operational leaders, are keeping a close eye on the storm’s forecast path.

Current projections suggest the eye of the storm will hit Providenciales in Turks and Caicos as well as Nassau, Bahamas starting Friday and continuing into Saturday. Weather experts predict with a sustained strong impact in that area of the Caribbean before Irma continues toward south Florida.

Hurricane Irma at 9:30 a.m. EDT, Sept. 8
Key West is expected to fare better than previously expected but the airport will close at 8 p.m. Friday. Irma is expected to hit Miami and Ft. Lauderdale beginning Saturday, then continue northeast along the coast.

Delta has capped one-way fares in all cabins at $399 for flights to and from southern Florida through Sept. 13. In addition, Delta is waiving all baggage and pet-in-cabin fees for customers traveling to or from the cities covered by a weather waiver issued for the region this week. The airline has expanded the Hurricane Irma weather waiver to include airports along the Georgia and South Carolina coast in anticipation of the storm’s impact on that region, which is expected Monday.

Airports in Irma’s wake, including St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana (SXM), Santiago (STI), St. Thomas (STT) and San Juan (SJU) international received damage from hurricane force winds and storm surge. STT and SXM remain closed due to infrastructure damage, and Delta has canceled flights to those airports for at least Thursday and Friday as a result. Additional schedule changes may be required after damages are fully evaluated.

Miami International (MIA), Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) and West Palm Beach (PBI) airports are expected to close Friday night. Delta will cancel its operation Saturday and likely Sunday, pending updates from the airport authority.

Orlando International (MCO) may see winds as high as 50 knots on Sunday night which may prompt the closure of the passenger tram system.

Normal operations are expected for Santo Domingo (SDQ), Port-au-Prince (PAP), Havana (HAV) and Punta Cana (PUJ) for Thursday, Sept. 7.

My take

Most every frequent traveler knows last-minute tickets are usually the most expensive. Couple that with an intense sense of self-preservation on the part of those in Irma's path and Delta could have reaped a windfall.

But it didn't.

Instead, it chose the higher moral ground of capping fares, and added more seats to provide more opportunities for people to get out of harm's way.

Well done, Delta. Keep up the good work.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photo provided by Weather Underground, wunderground.com
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