Wednesday,  March 29, 2023  2:54 am

WestJet & Air Canada prepare Canadians for Hurricane Florence with flexible rebooking policies

WestJet & Air Canada prepare Canadians for Hurricane Florence with flexible rebooking policies
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

Hurricane Florence, already a menacing force seen from space, has strengthened to a Category 4 storm with winds reaching 130 mph, and is currently barreling towards North Carolina.

No longer a question of if Florence will make landfall, but when, CNN reports that the hurricane could bring havoc as early as this coming Friday (Sept. 13) or Saturday (Sept. 14).

READ MORE: Travel tips for tourists caught in the hurricane season

Extreme storm surges expected

Hurricane Florence is quickly moving inwards towards the coast of North Carolina, and when she hits, not only will the state face mass rain and wind surges, but the state of South Carolina could be heavily impacted as well.

A massive storm, Hurricane Florence measures 150 miles from one side to the other (approx. 240 kilometres)—that’s roughly a trip from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario. Forceful winds extend 175 miles from the eye of the storm. Weather experts are warning that although Florence has subsided to winds of 130 mph, she could easily strengthen, and once she reaches 157 mph, it’s enough to classify her as a Category 5 hurricane, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Evacuations in order

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has stated on its website that once Hurricane Florence makes landfall, inland areas in central and western parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia will be flooded, due to winds pushing water inwards.

A mandatory evacuation order has forced more than one million people to flee the state, as officials urge residents to leave coastal areas and seek shelter inland. Once Florence reaches the shores of North Carolina, flash flooding and life-threatening storm surges are predicted.

The Canadian Government has posted an advisory urging Canadians to avoid all travel to the U.S. East coast, from Edisto Beach in South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, due to Hurricane Florence.

Keeping Canadians safe

Canadians currently travelling through North Carolina, or Canadians who have either cancelled, or are rethinking their travel plans to North Carolina have options. As of this Friday (Sept. 14), WestJet will cancel its regularly scheduled flight to and from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence.

“At this time, we are not taking any more guests in-bound to Myrtle Beach,” Morgan Bell, advisor, public and media relations, WestJet, told PAX. “WestJet is in the process of contacting guests booked on Friday’s outbound flight from Myrtle Beach to inform them that they have been rebooked on an earlier departure with one of our partner airlines. In the meantime, we urge our guests to follow all emergency response instructions provided by local authorities.”

Bell continued:

“We continue to monitor Hurricane Florence’s path closely and will make operational changes in the name of safety as necessary. We advise all guests travelling to or from Myrtle Beach to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport.”

WestJet is currently offering flexible change/cancel for guests travelling to or from Myrtle Beach until Sept. 14. Guests with reservations on or before this date can make voluntary changes to their itinerary that allows date/destination change free of charge or free cancellation. Fare difference will apply.

Air Canada echoed this statement.

"We have put in place a flexible rebooking policy and will be adjusting our schedule as warranted in response to the storm," said Peter Fitzpatrick, manager, corporate communications, Air Canada. "Customers are advised to check to be sure their flight is operating before going to the airport."

Air Canada travellers can also monitor the status of Hurricane Florence and check for updates here.