Update on Hurricane Irma

As Hurricane Irma tears through the Caribbean and heads for the U.S., our thoughts are with those affected by and preparing for this catastrophic storm.

Please scroll to the bottom of this post for the most recent updates

Evacuation plans

At WestJet, evacuation plans were set in place as soon as we became aware of the severity of the storm and on September 6, four rescue flights returned from affected areas. Specifically, we operated two flights northbound from Punta Cana, one from Puerto Plata and one from Providenciales (Turks and Caicos).

Today and tomorrow, September 7 and 8, we will operate rescue flights from Florida and several Caribbean destinations. For Florida, we will operate two flights from Fort Lauderdale and five from Orlando. For Cuba, we will operate one flight each from Varadero, Cayo Coco and Santa Clara. We will also operate one flight from Nassau and one from Antigua.

We continue to work on getting aircraft and flight crew into these areas ahead of airport closures. We are proud of the work being done on the ground by our airport teams and hotel staff to keep everyone involved – our guests and our WestJetters – safe during this exceptionally difficult time.

While we are attempting to move as many guests out of the areas as possible, concern remains for those who are unable to leave. We are confident that our hotel partners, who have dealt with hurricanes many times, know what to do and we urge anyone on the ground in these areas to follow the procedures given to them by their hotel and authorities in their area. We advise guests to remain at their hotel or emergency shelters, if applicable, and to not venture out on their own to try to avoid this storm.

Once the hurricane is over and we are able to resume flying, we will need to know where our guests are in order to contact them and make travel arrangements, and it is much more efficient to do so if we know guests are in contact with our hotel partners.

Hurricane promise in effect

For those guests with WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages to the areas through September 11, our hurricane promise is in effect. This means guests are able to cancel or reschedule at no charge.

Flight cancellations into affected areas

Based on the storm’s trajectory and severity, we have now proactively cancelled all WestJet flights operating into Florida for September 9 and 10. However, we will be releasing additional flights from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale for September 8.  We are in the process of reaching out to those guests booked on the cancelled flights but we urge them to contact us right away to reserve a seat. There is no charge for this reaccommodation.

Promo code for discount on Florida and South Carolina flights

To assist Florida and South Carolina residents attempting to leave those states, we are offering a promo code for 50 per cent off flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando and Myrtle Beach to any Canadian destination. When booking on westjet.com, please enter the coupon code WTVFFQR. For travel agent bookings, please enter the promo code WNQ60.

Flexible change and cancel rules for flights to and from Antigua and Barbuda, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Nassau, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Florida.

We have implemented flexible change and cancel rules for the above destinations that allow guests to change their travel dates/route without incurring the change/cancel fee.

Guests can call WestJet (air-only): 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET).

WestJet Vacations: 1-877-737-7001.

We advise all guests travelling to or from the affected cities above between September 5 and September 11, 2017 to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport.

There are a number of ways that guests in affected areas or with plans to travel to affected areas can obtain information about flight plans.

Humanitarian aid and relief efforts

We have been in touch with our partners at the Canadian Red Cross to offer our support and resources as they are needed. We encourage those who are interested in volunteering to assist with the rescue, relief and recovery efforts, to connect directly with the Red Cross.

UPDATE – September 8, 13:45 MST

We continues to monitor the situation in the Caribbean and southern U.S. as Hurricane Irma continues to move. Today, we are continuing our rescue flights from Florida and several Caribbean destinations. Our biggest concern is always safety. We need to be able to get our guests, our crews and our aircraft in and out of the destination safely.

With that in mind, here is an airport-by-airport overview. Please keep in mind that the situation can change as the storm continues on its path.

Antigua – The airport is closed. We are monitoring this destination due to Hurricane Jose.
Punta Cana – The airport is open. At this moment, WestJet plans to operate our scheduled flight on September 10.
Puerto Plata – The airport is open. At this moment WestJet’s regular flight is scheduled to operate on September 15.
Samana – The airport is open and at this moment WestJet will operate a scheduled flight on September 9.
Cayo Coco – The airport is closed and we will assess the condition of the airport once the storm has passed.
Varadero – The airport is open and at this moment WestJet will operate a scheduled flight on September 16.
St. Maarten – The airport is closed due to damage. We have a flight scheduled for September 17 however WestJet will assess whether this is possible.
Turks and Caicos – The airport is closed due to damage. We have a flight scheduled for September 16 however WestJet will assess whether this is possible.
Nassau – The airport is closed. WestJet will monitor the situation and make a decision on the next scheduled flight which is slated for September 11.
Florida, including Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers – the airports will close the evening of September 9 and WestJet has cancelled all flights September 9, 10 and 11. Next flights will be assessed once the impact on the ground is known.

Once again, our thoughts are with those impacted by the storm. We continue to wish everyone well and hope to be flying to these destinations with regularly scheduled service again soon.

We are getting a lot of questions now on what the next steps are. When can we resume flying into an area that’s been hit by a hurricane? How long does it take to get going again? When can I rebook a vacation? The answer is, we don’t know yet. The situation is very uncertain and changes by the hour in many areas, but what we can tell you is that it’s a multi-pronged approach. We work with the local airport authority, our hotel partners, and destination managers to determine conditions and operational readiness of the airport infrastructure to safely operate flights.

Keep checking our blog posts and our social media sites. They are the best place to get up-to-date information.

UPDATE – September 8, 20:00 MST

Canadian citizens who are in areas affected by Hurricane Irma can request emergency assistance from the Government of Canada by one of the following methods:

UPDATE – September 11, 07:37 MST

We are taking the unusual step of using our social media channels to reach out to any travellers who are currently in St. Maarten and are anxious to return home to Canada.

WestJet 4905 is operating a rescue flight leaving Toronto (YYZ) Monday, September 11 arriving in St. Maarten (SXM) at approximately 3:00pm local time. WestJet 4906 is scheduled to depart SXM at approximately 4:30pm to arrive in YYZ later this evening.

We understand the communication challenges you are facing. If you are able to communicate with us, we are asking guests in St. Maarten to register through Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Message or by contacting our call centre at 1-888-937-8538. In the event you are unable to reach us, we are asking guests to calmly make their way to the airport for 1:30pm local. Please understand that this is a very fluid situation and we, along with the various agencies involved, are doing our best to safely bring home as many people as possible understanding that the authorities are working on continued rescue efforts.

If you have friends or family in St. Maarten and you are in contact with them, you may register on their behalf through the channels noted above.

We will be assisted by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Dutch military who are in control of the airport. We will be prioritizing Canadians who register with us in advance; followed by Canadians who are not able to register in advance: followed by non-Canadians with a valid passport and have permission to travel to Canada.

We ask for your patience as we try to manage this situation.

Further information regarding these flights will be posted on Twitter and Facebook.

UPDATE – September 12, 18:30 MST

WestJet would like thank our valued guests for their patience and understanding over the past few days. We can certainly understand the confusion that Canadian travellers have over their future travel plans to regions of the Bahamas and Florida specifically and to the Caribbean in general. Overall, we are thankful that the hurricane has now diminished to the point that we are able to evaluate many of our destinations and hotel partners and provide some certainty around change and cancel to destinations in affected areas.

WestJet has made the decision to remove regularly scheduled flights to and from Cayo Coco (CCC), Santa Clara (SNU) and St. Maarten (SXM) through October 31, 2017 as local airports and hotels have suffered significant damage from the storm. In these cases, we are reaching out to our guests and travel agents with bookings between now and then (October 29) to re-book the guests. In addition, guests booked for travel through December 31 will be offered flexible change/cancel for these destinations.

Providencials (PLS), Varadero (VRA), Myrtle Beach (MYR), and all of WestJet’s Florida destinations including Orlando (MCO), Miami (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Tampa (TPA) are still under evaluation to ensure the airport, runway and hotel infrastructure are intact and safe and the destinations have the ability to service our guests. Guests booked to any of these areas will be offered flexible change/cancel for travel through September 30, 2017. We advise all guests travelling to or from these affected cities between September 5 and September 15, 2017 to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport.

Finally, WestJet is now back to normal operations for airport and hotels in Bahamas (NAS), Bermuda (BGI), Aruba (AUA), Antigua (ANU), Grand Cayman (GCM), Dominican Republic (AZS, PUJ, POP), St. Lucia (UVF), Curacao (CUR), all Mexicican destinations, Costa Rica and Jamaica. We will no longer be offering flexible change/cancel to these destinations as they are confirmed to be business as usual.

Flexible change and cancel rules for the above allow guests to change their travel dates/route without incurring the change/cancel fee.
Guests can call WestJet (air-only): 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET).
WestJet Vacations: 1-877-737-7001.
For cancellations, WestJet will be refunding guests in the form of WestJet dollars.

Once again, thank you for your patience.