In response to Hurricane Irma JetBlue is offering inexpensive flights to Florida. First, the carrier capped the cost of these flights to evacuate residents and visitors out of harm’s way but now the carrier is trying to get Floridians home. With abundant, inexpensive flights to the sunshine state is it wrong to book them if you’re not a resident?
After Delta was ostracized by the media for “gouging” their customers to the tune of $3000+ for a flight out of Florida, JetBlue and some other carriers capped their flight costs to offer an affordable option for Floridians and visitors. Some carriers even flew their largest jets – Delta ended up sending a 747 into the state – to evacuate as many people as possible. Now the Irma has left the state (and destruction behind) it’s time for residents to come home and JetBlue has extended their offer of $99 one-way direct flights and $159 connecting flights.
For those with direct flights on Jet Blue, this could constitute a terrific savings to get home or for a Floridian vacation. Even connecting flights are typically higher than these offered prices from some east coast markets and most others outside the eastern seaboard. Here is an example search.
The Case For Booking
While JetBlue announced the flights as part of the campaign, and many media outlets suggested this was solely for evacuees on specific dates (through September 18th), the prices on offer suggest otherwise. Many of the flight prices are both cheaper than the promotional rate announced, but the sale also clearly extends well beyond the dates listed. This could be a way to fill planes when they would otherwise be empty by the airline to one of their most popular destinations. That reflects a lack of sold tickets. Flying these routes supports the airlines, the airports, and their employees when otherwise the airline could suffer dramatic losses due to fewer passengers and lower revenue.
Florida relies on tourism revenue, not just in Orlando but everywhere – from Destin to Key West. The state was devastated in some areas, hotels that are not hosting displaced guests or making repairs will likely see a drop in tourism revenue. The same applies for rental cars, restaurants, and retail. The government also relies on tourist spend to fund its operations and while it will get a large bill for damage to public property, it will take even longer to recuperate the costs without increased revenue.
I have mentioned before that my parents own a home in Florida, as does my mother-in-law. There may be repairs and maintenance that need to be done, and in those regards, my family is equipped to help. I’ll cover shortly why this is a hollow excuse for booking a ticket south.
More than anything else, this is an inexpensive deal for my family. While justified by the above reasons, I can also give my family a little reprieve from the pending winter onslaught we dread living in the Northeast.
The Case Against Booking
Residents need to return home, return to work, rebuild their lives. These fares, which mirror the previous humanitarian sale, are clearly to provide a public good, not to provide me a vacation. By taking up a seat (or three in our case) we are robbing those who need affordable transportation back to Florida, of a seat they could use to get home. Trees are down, power lines severed, streets flooded – for some flying is the only practical option to return to their homes and jobs, or sadly, what’s left of them.
Rental cars, food and supplies are already in limited supply. By visiting the state, we could utilize resources truly needed by Floridians, we could be literally taking food off their table when we have no such supply issues in the Northeast. Further, as supplies dwindle and prices rise, our purchases only increase the potential to raise prices for people who are simply trying to put back the pieces. That’s not a positive effect on the economy nor the people of Florida.
We have been told by friends and neighbors that both of our parent’s homes are fine and damage is unlikely, outside of clearing a fridge of rotten food as a result of the loss of power during the storm. We couldn’t pretend that our trip south was to inspect our family’s property – it wouldn’t be. Help that we provide would also be done by family and friends in the area if we don’t go.
We haven’t made a decision yet, what do you think? Would tourists booking one of these deals help or hurt? Does it have an impact one way or another?