If you had plans to travel out of town on the East Coast this weekend, check your itinerary because more than likely those plans will be canceled.
Almost all major airlines are canceling flights. On Friday, JetBlue Airways Corp. became the first large airline to cancel 882 flights from Saturday through Monday before Hurricane Irene even hits the East Coast, and on Thursday Amtrak announced that most train service operating south of Washington D.C., for Friday, Saturday and Sunday in anticipation of Hurricane Irene will be canceled as well.
The powerful storm affected the Bahamas on Thursday and it is forecast to affect much of the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina to New England starting early Saturday.
If your travel plans in the North or Southeast were canceled, however, you are not completely out of luck. Airlines are announcing that they are willing to work with customers in light of Hurricane Irene.
US Airways, American Airlines, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Air Tran have all dropped or eliminated ticket change fees for passengers who were expecting to fly to or from cities along the East Coast this weekend.
Delta Airline’s website reads that if you planned to travel on August 26 through August 29 to, from or through Baltimore (BWI), New York (JFK, LGA, ISP), Newark, New Jersey (EWR), Newburgh, New York (SWF), Newport News, Virginia (PHF), Norfolk, Virginia (ORF), Philadelphia (PHL), Richmond, Virginia (RIC), Washington, D.C. (DCA, IAD) or White Plains, New York (HPN) you are “entitled to a refund.”
Other airlines have similar advisories on their websites.
“Due to the projected path of Hurricane Irene, American Airlines offers customers the convenience to change their plans,” says American Airlines for travel on Aug. 22 through Aug. 26 due to Hurricane Irene. On Thursday the airline canceled 126 flights, mainly out of Miami and the Bahamas.
Check with your travel provider to see if your trip has been canceled.
If your flight has not been canceled or you are stuck at the airport:
Keep an up-to-date list of local emergency phone numbers, as well as contact numbers for the nearest U.S. Embassy, Consulate or Consular Agency if you are out of the country, advises the U.S. State Department.
They also suggest protecting your vital travel documents from potential water damage by placing them in a waterproof container.
With the convenience of smartphones and laptops, stay abreast of what airlines are telling passengers via online or by phone.
If you are going to be stuck overnight, look up area hotels on your laptop or smartphone and ask for a "distressed traveler rate," or try to book last-minute rooms on sites such as Hotel Tonight, where you will not have to pay full price advises smarttraveler.com.
As President Obama warned earlier today, “Take precautions now.”
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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)