Although Hurricane Idalia wreaked havoc in states like Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas this week, the storm's impact on Labour Day weekend travel is expected to be limited.
The advice for travellers in affected areas right now is to pay attention to local guidance.
According to a CNN report, Paula Twidale, the senior vice president of AAA Travel, commented, "We encourage consumers to keep travel plans," but also advised travellers to be alert to the storm's repercussions and to consider airline waivers for changes "if necessary."
On Thursday, 31AUG, Visit Tampa Bay announced that the vicinity is "100% open." Following this, Tampa International Airport, which had been partially operational since Wednesday, 30AUG, has resumed full operation.
While MIA and FLL topped the list for the highest number of delays in major U.S. metropolitan areas on Thursday night, as per FlightAware's data, cancellations remained minimal.
In the Carolinas and Georgia, advice leans toward contacting local accommodations for updates. A rep from Visit Savannah said, "The weather... into the Labor Day weekend is looking amazing."
Forecasters have indicated that Idalia is set to move towards Bermuda during the weekend, noting there's potential for Idalia to regain strength, possibly reverting to a tropical storm status by Saturday.
Early Wednesday, 30AUG, Hurricane Idalia struck Florida’s Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane, which according to CNN, marked the most powerful hurricane to hit the area in over a century. Storm surges set records for highest water levels in multiple locations from Tampa Bay through Big Bend (the nook between the panhandle and peninsula) on the Gulf Coast.
As Idalia exited Florida, several of the state's major airports, previously closed due to the impending storm, announced their reopening. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advised that ongoing disruptions might persist due to the hurricane's impact. The agency's official Twitter account issued an alert: "Hurricane #Idalia is causing flight cancellations as it makes landfall in Florida," as the storm advanced toward south Georgia. They also noted, "Severe weather can affect flights beyond the immediate area."
As Open Jaw reported, Air Canada and WestJet updated their ticketing policies, allowing passengers headed to various cities in Florida, such as Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando, to reschedule their flights based on availability.
Southwest Airlines faced significant challenges, experiencing 220 cancellations and 300 delays, according to FlightAware. Data from the same source indicated that United, Delta, and American Airlines collectively encountered around 700 delays and nearly 330 cancellations.
Tampa International Airport communicated through its social media channels that it would start receiving incoming flights by 4 p.m. on 30AUG, with regular operations and outbound flights resuming the following morning. However, FlightAware reported that up to 91% of flights had been cancelled.
According to Simple Flying, some airlines, like United Airlines, rerouted services to aid with evacuations, while passengers booked for travel between 28AUG and 31AUG from various airports in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina could rebook services without fees until 05SEP.
Joe Lopano, the CEO of Tampa International Airport, expressed relief that the airport evaded significant damages. He stated that while they took ample precautions, including closing operations prior to the hurricane's arrival, their primary goal now is to fully restore operations and support the community during its recovery phase.
Likewise, Sarasota-Bradenton Airport resumed operations on the 30AUG but advised passengers to stay informed by checking with their airlines. Jacksonville International Airport issued a similar advisory on its website, encouraging travellers to contact airlines for rescheduling information.
However, Gainesville Regional Airport remained closed throughout 30AUG without a specific reopening date. Tallahassee International Airport confirmed its closure on 30AUG, aiming to resume normal operations by the morning of 31AUG, as stated on the city's official website.
Local tourism officials in St. Pete and Clearwater told Open Jaw's Jim Byers that the storm caused no significant damage. As a result, beachfront hotels are now accepting guests once again.
When speaking with officials in Fort Myers, Byers was informed there was "minimal damage" to the area—"some flooding along the coastline, but nothing significant."
In the Florida Keys, operations continued. The National Hurricane Center cancelled a tropical storm watch for the Lower Florida Keys after Hurricane Idalia passed west of the island chain. Monroe County Emergency Management director Shannon Weiner reported no significant impacts from Idalia brushing the Keys as a tropical storm. Infrastructure, including the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, electricity, communications, and water transmission, remained functional with no notable damage.
Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport were operating normally, though passengers were advised to stay updated on arrival and departure statuses. The Port of Key West reopened for commercial traffic on the morning of 30AUG after being closed since 29AUG.
Idalia continues as a tropical storm, shifting away from the northeastern coast of South Carolina, bringing along heavy rainfall and 60 mph winds.
As Thursday, 31 AUG progresses, the impact on travellers is expected to shift northwards, according to officials. The FAA highlighted the possibility of disruptions in Charlotte, North Carolina, a significant hub for American Airlines.