What to do if you planned to fly to Houston this week

The skies are anything but friendly right now on the Texas Gulf Coast.

While Texas and Louisiana cope with Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastation, those who had planned to fly to the area can’t. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Hobby Airport have canceled commercial flights until further notice, with IAH closed at least until noon Thursday. 

More than 7,500 flights into the region have been canceled since Friday. For Tuesday alone, the U.S. had about 1,700 cancellations, with at least 1,300 of them involving the two Houston airports, according to tracking website FlightAware

Most airlines, including United, with its hub in Houston, have waived their flight-change fees for several days to allow passengers to re-book or change their flights. United’s waiver includes 15 cities on the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana and is good for original travel dates of Aug. 25 through Sept. 5. The carrier typically operates about 480 flights there a day.  

Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge a flight-change fee as a matter of policy. Passengers to Houston and five other cities including Austin, New Orleans and San Antonio can re-book or travel standby without paying extra within certain dates. That includes those scheduled to travel Aug. 25 through Sept. 5.   

Other airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit, have also announced policy changes in wake of Harvey, according to a recent list from The Points Guy’s website. Check with your airline if you have plans. Chances are you’ll get a waiver.

All the cancellations may cut into airline sales and profits. Some Wall Street analysts are already expecting third-quarter unit revenue for airlines to be at the low end of company forecasts. 

Passenger Revenue per Available Seat Mile, or PRASM, a measurement used by analysts to track airline financial health, may rise less than 0.5 percent, in the third quarter compared with the midpoint of company forecasts for an increase at 1.5 percent, according to a report from UBS analyst Darryl Genovesi, based on an analysis of U.S. travel agency ticket sales through Aug. 20.

Many airlines may cut their forecasts next week, Genovesi said in the note.

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Source: CBS News – Moneywatch

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