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Airlines Cap Ticket Prices for Irma Evacuees After Criticism, Including From the Senate

Blumenthal and Markey had asked Chao for an investigation

Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao was asked to investigate airline ticket prices ahead of Hurricane Irma (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao was asked to investigate airline ticket prices ahead of Hurricane Irma (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Airlines are responding to criticism, including from Senate Democrats, about spikes in ticket prices ahead of Hurricane Irma, with $99 caps on flights from Miami.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao requested a Department of Transportation probe of price hikes.

“One report describes a ticket from Miami to Hartford, Connecticut that increased nearly tenfold from Monday to Tuesday, going from $159 to $1,020 over the course of one day. Another report details $3,000 fares for basic tickets from Miami to the New York City area,” the senators wrote. “We demand that the Department of Transportation (DOT) investigate this situation, including looking at the price of flights from Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to the mainland U.S. in recent days.”

Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., serves the home states of both Blumenthal and Markey. One of the reports cited in that letter to Chao referred to a specific American Airlines flight from their Miami hub.

American Airlines responded to a query about the letter by saying they had adjusted prices for the few remaining seats.

“While there are limited seats remaining before the storm hits, we will cap our pre-tax fares at $99 for Main Cabin seats on direct, single leg flights out of Florida for tickets sold through Sunday Sept. 10 for travel until Sept. 13,” the airline said in a statement. “We have not changed our pricing structure, and, in fact have added capacity to help get customers out of the affected areas. We have added several extra flights … in addition to upgrading aircraft when possible.”

That is sure to be welcome news for the senators.

“Airlines certainly have a right to a reasonable return for services rendered and vagaries in pricing are to be expected; but airlines have no right to impose exorbitant, unfair prices on Americans simply trying to get out of harm’s way,” the senators wrote. “It would certainly be offensive if airlines — who rely on publicly supported infrastructure and have been bolstered by American taxpayers for nearly a century — used this opportunity to impose unconscionable costs on consumers.”

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