A $99 price cap has been put in place as Hurricane Irma approaches.
“We want those trying to leave ahead of the hurricane to focus on their safe evacuation, rather than worry about the cost of flights,” JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw said on Wednesday.
The $99 price cap, which has been put in place until September 10, ensures that direct flights from Florida cities where JetBlue operates (including Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale, among others) will not exceed $99. Connecting flights are capped at a maximum of $159.
Reuters noted that flights in the eastern and western Caribbean are also under a “fare ceiling” until September 7 and 8, respectively.
People attempting to evacuate in advance of Hurricane Irma’s arrival have encountered extraordinarily high ticket prices, according to Quartz.
“The systems that automatically adjust fares based on supply, demand, and competitor pricing in real time…are allowed to sell more seats than exist on flights,” Quartz explained. “When airline pricing systems recognize that a flight will be overbooked, it can send ticket prices to astronomical levels to cover the anticipated costs and penalties of bumping other ticket holders.”
Basically, the algorithm that determines airfare prices isn’t calibrated to take into consideration life-threatening natural disasters — let alone be compassionate — making manual price caps like JetBlue’s perhaps a necessary solution.
Both Delta and American have responded by instituting fare limits, too. Delta’s most expensive fares are set to $399 on flights out of Florida and impacted Caribbean islands, a Delta spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
While many airlines have already added extra flights or upgraded to larger aircraft when possible, all airlines are struggling to meet demand. Reports suggest that JetBlue’s $99 flights may already be sold out.