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Hurricane update: Long waits for flight changes

August 27, 2011|By Chris Erskine | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Airlines were pleading for patience Saturday as call centers struggled to handle the high volume of inquiries from travelers whose plans were disrupted by Hurricane Irene. The situation was aggravated by high demand from travelers eager to wrap up late summer vacation as the new school year kicked in.

US Airways was urging customers to go online to change itineraries. Meanwhile, the airline has canceled all flights out of Philadelphia, New York and Boston on Sunday. It was waiving change fees for many flights, company reps said.

Airlines were also extending rebooking deadlines. Delta moved the date back to Sept. 6 for flights in and out of the Northeast. JetBlue was waiving fees and fare differences in certain markets through Sept. 6.

Hotels at the edges of the storm -- in western Pennsylvania, upstate New York, western Virginia--are reporting very strong last-minute booking. Travel industry observer Joe Brancatelli said many are now sold out. “If you're planning to bug out, you may have to go fairly far afield to secure accommodations,” he said.

Brancatelli was critical of some airlines handling of the storm. “I'm hearing from many flyers that the carriers never notified them of their flight's cancellation,” he said. “In recent years, the airlines have always explained away their lack of public transparency with the claim that they were privately notifying affected travelers. This time, not so much.”

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