While Airlines Fly People to Safety During Hurricane, Senators Attack Them

The New York Times yesterday covered price gouging charges against the airlines in the lead up to Hurricane Irma. Or I should say they covered grandstanding by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey and Florida Representative Charlie Crist.

It’s not well articulated in the article, but there is mention that average fares out of Florida actually weren’t higher close to departure than they were to weeks earlier. So there wasn’t any systematic gouging, just the occasional price spike for those last seats at the last minute on a given aircraft — the result of standard airline pricing algorithms, jacking up the price of the last few seats on a plane as they always do, rather than any conscious attempt to charge customers more as the hurricane approached.

The Times piece doesn’t mention until the last paragraph of the piece (talk about burying the lede!) that once airlines were getting criticized — and before politicians wrote their very angry letters — several airlines imposed price caps for instance JetBlue and American set theirs at $99 one-way for non-stop flights out of Florida.

Both Delta and American brought in extra capacity out of Florida, too, although American’s Miami operation didn’t handle it especially well and several flights unexpectedly cancelled for lack of crew (and there weren’t staff to offload bags, either).

While airlines were going to heroic lengths to actually fly people out of affected areas, what were Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey doing besides plotting how to gain attention from the Times? Lest anyone doubt their concern is genuine, they didn’t just lodge a complaint with the Secretary of Transportation they sent out a press release about it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. @ Gary — American has commenced price gouging back to Miami…20k Anytime Awards are now 30k on Wednesday. That is not the usual price.

  2. The New York Times, unlike most news media, does target readers who read entire articles and don’t just skim the headlines.

    Perhaps the Senators read Travis’ One Mile At A Time Post entitled “Are Airlines Price Gouging Ahead Of Hurricane Irma?” which summarizes its research as follows: “Bottom line:

    It certainly appears that the airlines are charging more than usual for their flights out of Florida, even allowing for the fact that we are looking at last-minute tickets. They may or may not be charging $3,500 for a one-way flight, but fares are certainly approaching half of that. I don’t think that’s typical.”

  3. Typical Republican hypocrisy. Christ should have used his law firm’s corporate jets, before filing this complaint.

  4. I saw Canadian airlines flying into St. Maarten, but not a single U.S. airline. So much for them caring about people.

  5. they are all democ rats complaining and charlie crist’s firm Morgan and Morgan has plenty of corporate jets and could help too

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *