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Airlines ease ticket change fees over severe weather forecasts for Hawaii and the Southeast

Airlines ease ticket change fees over severe weather forecasts for Hawaii and the Southeast
A satellite image shows Hurricane Madeline, left, and Hurricane Lester over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii on Wednesday. (EPA / Nasa Earth Observatory)

Forecast for air travelers with Labor Day plans: Your flight may be delayed or canceled because of severe weather predicted in the Southeast and Hawaii. In anticipation of the storms, airlines are allowing certain ticketed passengers to change their plans without having to pay a fee.

In Hawaii, Hurricane Madeline, as of Wednesday afternoon, was bringing heavy rains to the Big Island, though the storm had weakened overnight. It's expected to hit Thursday morning.

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The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for the Big Island as well as for the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai; no warnings currently are in effect for the islands of Oahu and Kauai.

Hurricane Lester, to the west of Hawaii, on Wednesday may weaken, but still hit the islands, according to media reports.

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American, Hawaiian, United, Delta and Alaska airlines are allowing Hawaii travelers intending to fly Wednesday and Thursday to postpone their flight or receive a refund. Each airline has its own deadlines to rebook.

Over the holiday weekend, that could be a headache. Delta Air Lines spokesman Michael Thomas says the change fee waiver doesn't mean your flight will be delayed or canceled. The move is meant to give fliers the flexibility to change their hotel or transportation plans.

"We want to limit the number of displaced customers on the front end," he says.

On the East Coast, Tropical Storm Hermine in west Florida could bring heavy rain and coastal flooding to places such as Tampa and St. Petersburg. And tropical depressions this week threatened or may threaten parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia as well as other Florida cities.

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American, Southwest, Delta, JetBlue and United are waiving fees for ticket changes on a number of destinations in the Southeast.

Bottom line: If you are traveling to any of these weather-affected areas:

— check with the airline before you go to the airport;

— change your ticket and rebook within the dates allowed if you don't want to fly right now; and

— keep your eye on your airline's social media channels for the most up-to-date information.

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