Stranded at an airport because of Hurricane Florence? Be prepared to pay for your own food and lodging

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., as Hurricane Florence approaches the area.
(Travis Long /The News & Observer/Associated Press)

The airport you are traveling to or from has closed or the flight you were expecting to board has been canceled because of Hurricane Florence, punishing South and North Carolina. What to do?

Don’t expect the airline you’re flying on to cover the cost of your food and lodging. Airlines may help you refund or rebook your flight without incurring change fees (depending on when you bought your ticket) and may even waive the cost of checking your bags and bringing your pets onboard. But when it comes to survival basics, you’re pretty much on your own to find and pay for hotel rooms and meals.

Among airports closed because of the storm are Charleston, S.C., Wilmington, N.C., Greenville, N.C., according to More than half of all flights at Raleigh-Durham, N.C., airport have been canceled, according to FlightAware statistics; in the United States, more than 11,000 flights have been delayed and nearly 1,400 canceled, in total, although these are not all related to Hurrricane Florence.

American Airlines said in a statement to passengers Thursday that it relies on the American Red Cross to help people in the path of the storm.


“As Hurricane Florence begins to unfold, the Red Cross is prepared to assist up to 100,000 people in the affected areas,” the statement said. (Now through Sept. 21, the airline’s AAdvantage members can earn 10 miles for every dollar donated to the Red Cross website with a minimum $25 donation.)

No mention is made of helping stranded passengers, and American isn’t alone.

Passengers are on their own to figure out a strategy to stay safe when flights are canceled or airports close.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as the hurricane approaches.


--Before you fly, L.A. Times Travel editor Catharine Hamm advises:

“Create your own little packet of power, as I like to call it. This documentation, whether stored on your phone or carried as paper or on a flash drive, consists of these things: the airline’s telephone number, the airline’s terms and conditions or contract of carriage (found at its website — try searching one of those terms) and a list of other airlines that fly the route you’re taking. If you have your smartphone with you, download the app for your favorite airline booking method and begin searching at the first sign of trouble.

“On that smartphone, download an app such as FlightStats or FlightAware. Those apps allow you to set up an alert, and if trouble is looming, you should be notified. That means you can start calling or checking with an agent sooner than the thousands of others who will be in the same boat, so to speak. (But remember, the airline has the final word about flight cancellations.)

--Stay on top of what you’re airline tells you to do. You can call, but you may get information faster on the airline’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Also watch the same social media sites for airports you are traveling to or from.


--Don’t go to the airport if the airline tells you your flight is canceled. You may think you’ll have a better shot at getting out but you might just wind up stuck.

--Take advantage of rebooking your ticket, through your airline, a third party booking agency or a travel agent. That way when the danger passes, you’ll have a seat and a plan to get where you’re going.

--Check in with agencies such as the National Hurricane Center and the Weather Channel as well as local news reports to find out what’s happening with Hurricane Florence.

--Keep electronic chargers in your carry-on and keep your phone or laptop charged, particularly because power could fail.


12:33 p.m. This story has been updated with airport and flight cancellation information.


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12:50 p.m. Sept. 14: This post has been updated with details about airport closures.

This article was originally published at 12:50 p.m. Sept. 13.