WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, September 12, 2018) –– If your travel plans for the week, or for next week, included a trip into the area forecast to be impacted by Hurricane Florence, including Ocean City, Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia Beach, Chincoteague Island, the Outer Banks or the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, or along the entire coastline of South Carolina, you should act promptly to cancel or rebook your trip, advises AAA Travel Services. However, travelers looking to stay out of the way of Hurricane Florence and her hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, storm surges, and flooding, “may find it is not so easy yet to change plans,” explain AAA Travel agents.
That is why it is imperative you investigate cancellation or rebooking options now. Plan ahead, and understand the situation may change quickly as the storm approaches. Review cancellation requirements and penalties, if applicable. Here is another important tip: contact your travel agent without delay. “Catastrophic flooding and destructive winds” could despoil your vacation plans, ransack your business trip and put your life in harm’s way. Florence is “expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic,” warns the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
As Hurricane Florence approaches, “airlines across the country are issuing travel waivers and alerts.” At least 23 East Coast airports are impacted. Several major U.S. airlines, including Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Airlines, Frontier, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue have already announced travel waivers, as Hurricane Florence churns toward the East Coast. They are currently in effect. On some airlines, “customers can rebook flights for travel through September 20 with change/cancel fees waived and fare differences waived.” Florence is forecast to make landfall Thursday into Friday.
“In the event of a hurricane the strength, size and scope of Hurricane Florence, travel plans may be disrupted, even for those not traveling to an affected area. For example, cruise ships often adjust their itineraries to avoid storms or help accommodate travelers on other route,” said Barbara S. M. MacDonald, Senior Travel Agent, AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Before, during and after the monster hurricane, travelers should check with their travel providers—including hotels, airlines, car rental companies, cruise lines, and tour operators—for the latest updates to itineraries or cancellation and rebooking policies.”
For example, Southwest Airlines says “customers who are holding reservations to/from cities and airports, including Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Washington Dulles International (IAD), Washington DC (Reagan National - DCA), Richmond (RIC), and Norfolk/Virginia Beach (ORF), “may rebook in the original class or travel standby (within 14 days of their original travel dates between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charges.”
In contrast, United Airlines is advising its would-be passengers: “The change fee and any difference
in fare will be waived for new United flights departing between September 10, 2018, and September 16, 2018, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.” United adds: “For wholly rescheduled travel departing after September 20, 2018, or for a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. Rescheduled travel must be completed within one year from the date when the ticket was issued.”
Your travel agent will have access to the latest travel updates/cancellations and can help you explore all options available to you. If you have booked a hotel room in an impacted area, check with your hotel for local updates on the storm’s impact. Here are some additional travel tips:
- Travelers should heed all official evacuation advisories and orders.
- It is important to monitor weather conditions regularly, both at your departure city and destination.
- If you have hotel reservations, check with your hotel for local updates on the storm’s impact.
- Many airlines are waiving change fees and issuing changes to rebooking policies as a result of the storm. Check with your airline on their policy and:
- Check your flight status before leaving for the airport.
- Consider signing up for text or mobile alerts from your airline for the latest flight information.
- Several cruise lines have altered itineraries in advance of the storm. Travelers should check with their cruise line or travel agent for updates.
- Travel insurance is designed to offer protection against sudden and unforeseen situations and events.
- Hurricane Florence has been categorized as a “foreseeable event” with known potential to affect travelers. If someone buys travel insurance after the dates listed in coverage alerts, most insurers will not provide coverage for storm-related claims, while other protections remain in effect.
In addition, carry enough medication in your carry-on luggage for two to three times the length of your trip. Arrange emergency back-up child, as applicable. Carry all valid contact information on your person, and not in your checked luggage and carry important numbers with you for anyone you might need to contact, advises AAA Travel. If you are a pet owner, also arrange for assistance for your pet, if necessary. Travelers should also be prepared for any eventuality, as well as be prepared to stand fast. Even so, travelers should:
- Leave a house key with a trusted friend or relative and carry their telephone number with you.
- Have emergency funds available for hotel stays, food, and basic necessities - check all credit card available credit limits and expiration dates.
- Take care of critical items/bills which are due immediately upon your return BEFORE YOU GO - examples: mortgage payments, tuition bills, school registrations, college applications, legal documents, etc.
On a related topic, insurance companies are no longer issuing new flood insurance policies as Hurricane Florence bears down on the region. For example, the entire state of Virginia is suspending from “binding authority.” It is a technical term that means flood-insurance writing activity is suspended immediately after the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues a Hurricane Watch or a Hurricane Warning.
“Most homeowners’ insurance policies in Virginia, Maryland and the District do not provide coverage for damage to the home due to floods, surface water or storm surges,” explained Kendall Bramble, Insurance Counselor for AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance Agency. “As of July 31, 2018, 105,919 flood insurance policies were in effect in Virginia, and 66,515 flood insurance policies were in effect in Maryland. In late July, 2,051 homeowners or businesses in the District of Columbia had flood insurance policies in effect.”
“Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies,” according to the Insurance Information Institute (III) and AAA Insurance. “However, flood coverage is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurers.” Lurking in the expanse and above the deep of the Atlantic Ocean behind Hurricane Florence are Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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