Flying Through a Hurricane
August 23, 2011 8:48 AM   Subscribe

We're supposed to fly from JFK to MCO on Sunday evening. Except now there is a hurricane. What's our best course of action?

We have a surprise trip to Disney World lined up for our kiddies, and we're supposed to leave from New York JFK on Sunday night at around 7pm. As best I can figure, Hurricane Irene will be hitting the New York area at about that time. Eep!

What can we expect in the way or airline shutdowns or cancellations around Irene? Anecdotes very welcome.

And what can we do to maximize our chances of making it to Florida at about the right time, and preferably without spending a ton more money? Standby flights? Try to change our tickets to go down early? Eat the cost of the flights and drive?

Or -- are we worrying over nothing, and it will probably just be a little rainy by then?
posted by Andrhia to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
IANAMeteorologist, but in my experience they'll shut down the airport only for a direct hit by a tropical storm. Nice thing about jets is you can fly around the weather. I'd hang tough until things are more certain.
posted by zomg at 8:54 AM on August 23, 2011

It's pretty unlikely that you'll have a problem with JFK; it's also fairly unlikely that Irene will "hit" New York in a meaningful way. Who knows though, yes. (You should use the projections from the NHC and, as you get closer to travel time, airport data from the FAA.)

You're more likely to have troubles with Orlando; tropical storm season can be nutso, but they're used to it.

I would not generate any more uncertainty. It's way too soon to do anything. I would stick to your plans, and if nature cancels them, it'll be sad, but you'll have, you know, canceled tickets.

Do not drive. By the time you get to South Carolina, a government agency will likely be taking your children away from you. (You could take the overnight Autotrain from Virginia to Orlando however! It's... intense but you'll live.)

But yeah: when you do get ready for the airport on Sunday, pack food for the kiddos just in case you're sitting on a runway for two hours.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:26 AM on August 23, 2011

It also might loose some power as it skims the coast. Just keep checking the NHC page.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2011

In some situations, I've had luck contacting the airline to see if it's possible to move the flight up when bad weather is coming. YMMV, but if you have flexibility, it can save them hassle of having to try to rebook you later. Worth a try anyway.
posted by goggie at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2011

In some situations, I've had luck contacting the airline to see if it's possible to move the flight up when bad weather is coming. YMMV, but if you have flexibility, it can save them hassle of having to try to rebook you later. Worth a try anyway.

I came in here to advise something like this. You'll probably have to wait until 24-48 hours out to reschedule due to weather, but if by Thursday evening or so Irene is still bearing down on NYC, call up your airline and ask. You can also look around your airline's website for more information about re-booking; here, for example, is what Delta is saying about Irene right now.

But again, given the amount of uncertainty in the 5-day forecast, you can't really swing into action for a couple of days. As recently as 24 hours ago most of the state of Florida was in the 5-day uncertainty cone for the path of the eye; now the cone doesn't contain any part of the state.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:28 AM on August 23, 2011

... To finish the thought: in other words, the 5-day uncertainty cone is something to keep an eye on, but I'd only really start to worry if you end up in the 3-day cone.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the reality check -- it looks like the thing to do is just wait another day or two and then take another look.
posted by Andrhia at 1:53 PM on August 23, 2011

I don't know how old your kids are but I'd weigh telling them you're going on a surprise trip but not specifically to Disney until your flight situation is crystal clear. The idea of a bunch of hepped up kids having to wait and wait in an airport is bad enough; the idea of having to wait and wait with a bunch of kids being DENIED ACCESS TO MICKEY is enough to make me want to kill myself.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Haha, an amusing thought. Unfortunately they're both literate, so they'll figure it out as soon as we start lingering near a gate marked 'Orlando,' if not sooner.
posted by Andrhia at 7:00 PM on August 23, 2011

We were in a similar situation a few years ago. The forecast storm path is highly unpredictable, despite the attempts with the cone to show a range of outcomes. For example, Jeanne made a loop-de-loop. Not only is the path uncertain, but it can speed up or slow down at any time. So watchful, worried, waiting is in order.

The good news is that airlines are really good about letting you change your plans if they are genuinely affected by the storm. However, and please do not interpret this as advising you to storm-chase, lots of people cancel vacation plans due to a storm. The few days after Jeanne blew through we were able to walk on pretty much any ride in the parks. It was awesome. If it were me, I would go for it.
posted by wnissen at 9:39 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Yep, this is looking more and more like a direct hit at the exact time we're supposed to take off. :(
posted by Andrhia at 5:51 AM on August 25, 2011

Best answer: CNN story on travel delays thus far, though there's not too much useful info there. The one important piece of info I can see there is that US Airways has started to waive fees on rebookings in North Carolina & Virginia (though not JFK yet.) Keep an eye on the appropriate website for your airline over the next 24 hours; it should be clearer what's going to happen by this time tomorrow.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:18 AM on August 25, 2011

Response by poster: In fact we were just able to rebook for tomorrow morning! I expect wind-related delays on the way down, but even so, two extra days of vacation!

And we won't have to worry about where to evacuate since we're not here when the storm surge hits. Our house is seven feet above sea level. O_O
posted by Andrhia at 1:36 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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