With the powerful winds of Hurricane Irma approaching Florida, some airlines are hiking ticket prices well beyond the budget of many seeking to escape the destructive storm, CBS News reports.
The outlet interviewed a Vermont man, Steve McQueen, who said he spent $1,725 to fly his 87-year-old mother from Fort Myers, Florida to Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday. He told CBS that he understands what happens with last minute ticket purchases but called the price “ghastly.”
Delta Airlines was publicly shamed when a prospective customer tweeted a price change from $547.50 to $3,258.50 found on Expedia.com, NBC News reported. Since that post went viral, others reported United Airlines and American Airlines for similar price hikes.
According to CBS, price gouging related to emergencies is illegal in Florida. That rule applies to hotels, gas stations and grocery stores–but not airlines. The federal government is responsible for regulating the airline industry.
Exorbitant pricing complicates evacuation arrangements for students like Antonio Mercurius, an African American studies and health science major at the University of Miami. Mercurius told the Miami Herald he felt “lucky” to have purchased his flight to the District of Columbia on Monday, before the hikes.
The co-founder of the student poetry collective Speak How You Feel told reporters he was concerned about the safety of others who can’t afford the increased prices: “Why is there no emergency evacuation cost? I understand supply and demand but the laws of capitalism should not operate in the times of catastrophic danger. What happens to the people that can’t afford flights now?”
After public outrage over the “laws of capitalism,” some airlines began to change their tunes and prices. JetBlue set a $99 cap for direct flights out of Florida. American Airlines set a similar cap for outgoing flights. A spokesperson for Delta Airlines announced that it would adjust prices for last-minute flights, waive change fees, and accommodate more passengers with larger planes.