Early on the morning of Saturday, August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, hit the coast of Texas. As residents start to evacuate the areas Harvey is expected to hit, airlines have been forced to make quick decisions on whether or not to cancel flights and how they should allow travellers reimbursement.
Early on, it is clear that many airlines have chosen to cancel flights. Service to both George bush Intercontinental (IAH) and William P Hobby (HOU) airports, two of the biggest hubs in the region, was canceled by many major carriers days before Harvey hit mainland. By the afternoon of Friday, August 25, airlines had canceled over 100 flights throughout the weekend while dozens of others were delayed, according to the airport system.
Airports across Texas are taking the storm differently. Most small airports, like Corpus Christi International, are shutting down for the weekend.
“All flights have been cancelled for the foreseeable future,” said a statement by Christy, a public use airport in Nueces County where American, Southwest, and United have cancelled all flights through the weekend.
Some airports are only partially closing down. Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas will reopen on Sunday. San Antonio is operating throughout the weekend, but with delays and reduced service.
Only two major airports in Harvey’s path are trying to remain fully operational. Both IAH and HOU will remain open during the storm, but have faced significant flight delays and cancellations.
At HOU, Southwest Airlines has canceled ⅓ of all Saturday flights. A spokeswoman for Southwest, the dominant carrier at HOU, said that the airlines hopes to run a full Houston schedule on Sunday. In a statement, Southwest said that it is monitoring the storm and will make additional flight adjustments when needed.
United, another large presence at HOU, says that they have waiver policies in place for those traveling through affected areas. Twenty five (25) United flights have been canceled throughout the weekend so far, but, according to a United spokesman, that number will likely change. United is also repositioning aircraft and bringing in more customer service agents and ramp workers to make sure that the airline has the resources needed during the storm.
Not only American based carriers are canceling flights. Both WestJet and Air Canada are canceling flights between Calgary and Houston. WestJet has cancelled all Saturday flights.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and will make a decision on Sunday’s flights depending on the impact the storm is having on the ground,” a spokesperson for WestJet said.
“Those customers wishing to make alternate travel arrangements can do so without penalty, space permitting, using our online rebooking tool,” said a statement on Air Canada’s website.
Airlines are allowing eligible travellers to make one change to their itineraries without fees, which, under normal circumstances, could cost $200 or more per passenger. In addition, within a finite travel window, airlines are allowing these passengers to switch their flights without paying a fare difference. For trips outside the travel dates, most airlines are allowing passengers to apply the full value of the ticket for their canceled flight towards a new trip. Passengers should check with their airline to learn specific details about rebooking options.
In total, at the time of writing, 340 flights have been canceled at IAH and HOU. An additional 42 have been canceled at Corpus Christi. Additional cancellations may occur.
Click the links below to access change criteria for the listed airlines. If your airline isn’t listed, check with them directly to learn more about waiver policies.
Harvey isn’t only going to affect civil aviation. The hurricane is expected to directly hit two major navy flight training bases. As of Friday afternoon, only 28 of NAS Kingsville’s 99 T-45s were evacuated, all of which will go to NAS Fort Worth. Most of the aircraft at the base will ride out the storm in hangars. At the moment, if a T-45 is required to fly, it can only be operated by instructor pilots and can’t climb about 10,000 feet.
NAS Corpus Christi have sent all their flyable aircraft to NAS Fort Worth. All other aircraft will be stored in hangars.
In addition, before the storm hit, at least 10 critically ill NICU babes from Corpus Christi were evacuated via aircraft equipped with IVs, breathing tubes, ventilators, and special gases and transferred to Cook Children’s Level 4 NICU in North Texas. If they stayed in the path of the hurricane, the hospitals they were in would likely lose power, which would render ventilators, lifesaving for many of them, useless.