Hurricanes rip through US airline profits

by Jerome Greer Chandler
February 02, 2018
airport ruined by hurricane irma air bridges destroyed
Hurricane Irma all but destroyed Princess Juliana Airport. Airbridges were smashed to the ground by gale force winds and torrential downpours.

The season for Atlantic hurricanes is over for now and won’t be back until June 1.

From that date on, all the way to November 30,  airlines will stay on edge, hoping there’s no replay of 2017.

Last year’s season saw Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria pummel—in order—Texas, the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico, resulting in the axing of 33,000 flights domestically by US airlines.

The worst day in terms of schedules was Sunday, September 10 when the airline industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) says carriers cancelled 4,567 flights.

Some airlines were hit harder than others.

A4A says among the hardest hit was Delta Air Lines. The impact on profits was a daunting $US120 million.

United’s bottom line took a huge revenue hit too: $US210 million because of having to close its Bush Houston Intercontinental hub for a number of days, courtesy of Harvey.

Southwest’s impact on revenue was $US100 million and ultra-low fare Spirit was hurt to the tune of US$40 million according to A4A. JetBlue’s  revenue was affected by $US44 million.

The wretched weather in ordinarily sun-kissed climes took a toll on American Airlines’ pre-tax profits of $US75 million.

American (AA) is the biggest player in the Caribbean, with its major Latin and Caribbean hub at Miami International Airport.

READ: Famous St Maarten airport flattened by hurricane

AA fields more than 170 daily flights to 37 destinations in the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Bermuda from seven hub airports, Miami key amongst them. Geographically MIA is perhaps most vulnerable, sitting as it does at the tip of the Florida peninsula.

All of these numbers matter to travelers. If you’re going to visit the Caribbean best bet is to avoid June through November—despite the great fare sales that tend to cluster around that oftens tumultuous period.

JetBlue is betting the coming hurricane season won’t come early.

On June 14, it’s launching nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (FLL) to Santiago, Dominican Republic’s Cibao International Airport.

October sees JetBlue beginning nonstop flights from FLL to Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport.