As Hurricane Irma barrels toward Florida, many people are rushing to get out of the state before it hits. But as that demand increases, travelers are complaining that ticket prices are skyrocketing.
Around the Internet, travelers are pointing out some particularly shocking cases of algorithmic price-gouging, as the computer systems that manage airfare prices automatically adjust to the flood of demand.
In one example, a man who purchased a one-way ticket on American Airlines from Miami to Hartford, CT for his daughter to get out of Irma’s way paid just $159.20 on Monday evening. But when he checked on Tuesday in an attempt to buy another seat for her roommate, that same ticket cost $1,020.
“I about had a heart attack,” he told Yahoo! Finance.
“We have not changed our fare structures, and, in fact have added capacity to help get customers out of the affected areas,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Yahoo! Finance, noting that the airline has added “several” extra flights from St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Turks and Caicos, and Puerto Rico.
It’s not just American, as travelers are calling out other airlines as well:
That traveler noted later that Delta contacted her in response to her Tweet and “helped tremendously.”
“We have not increased any fares in response to the hurricane,” a Delta spokesperson told Consumerist, noting that it’s looking into reports of increased fares on sites like Expedia. “In fact, as the storm approaches we reduced the price level of our highest fares (which are typically seen when customers are booking last-minute travel and inventory is limited) out of cities in its projected path.”
The airline has also added flights and upsized aircraft on flights out of San Juan and south Florida, the spokesperson notes.”New flights are being added to and from Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Key West, and to Atlanta (where people can connect to destinations across the U.S.).”
Delta is encouraging customers to reach out to the airline directly, via its reservations line “where they will find the best fares.” Along with other airlines, Delta is offering a change fee waiver for those looking to switch their flights and get out of the path of the storm.
Another ticket-seeker told The Miami Herald she searched Expedia on Tuesday for flights to get some of her family members out of Miami to New York, and found only one option — $1,318.80 per person for a flight with one stop.
“I’ve been searching for a few hours now on Expedia and other travel sites and it’s been actually impossible,” she told the Herald. “I’m scared for them.”
Elsewhere on Twitter, other travelers are also reporting prices of more than $1,000:
While price-gouging is illegal in Florida after a declared state of emergency, airlines are regulated by the federal government and thus, are not subject to state laws.
We’ve reached out to the U.S. Department of Transportation for more information on what travelers can do when facing steep prices during states of emergency, and will update this post if we hear back.