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Canadian airlines fly travellers out of destinations in Hurricane Irma’s path

Last Updated Sep 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm EDT

Canadian Airlines including Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat mobilized planes on Wednesday to get travellers out of destinations in Hurricane Irma’s path — such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba and even Florida.

Air Canada planned to operate additional flights out of the Dominican Republic (Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Samana) and Florida (Fort Lauderdale and Miami), and larger aircraft for flights from Cuba (Varadero, Holguin and Havana).

The airline has also sent extra flights to areas in immediate danger, including Antigua and Providenciales, to bring customers home early.

Montreal-based Air Transat said it was sending 10 aircraft to the Dominican Republic — seven to Punta Cana, two to Puerto Plata and one to Samana.


Powerful Hurricane Irma hits Caribbean islands

The holiday travel airline did not say how many of its travellers would board the flights back to Canada.

Air Transat also said its scheduled flights on Thursday to Punta Cana departing from Toronto and Montreal have been cancelled.

The airline said it would contact affected customers and offer them travel at a later date, travel to another destination subject to conditions, or cancellation with a full refund excluding travel insurance costs.

Sunwing, meanwhile, said on Wednesday “we have already activated plans to repatriate customers in the destinations that we fly to that are currently under hurricane watch or warning. We are in regular contact with our local representatives who are keeping our customers in the affected destinations apprised of the situation and assisting them with making the necessary changes to their travel arrangements.

“Our hurricane policy has been extended to all southbound passengers that were scheduled to travel to any of these destinations between Sept. 6 and 10 inclusive. Passengers have been provided the option to change destination or re-book for travel at a later date.

Two flights were sent to St Maarten/St Martin on Sept. 5, and two flights are going to Punta Cana and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. Southbound flights to Punta Cana have been cancelled on Sept. 6 and 7. Our Sept. 8 flights to Puerto Plata have also been cancelled.

“Flights to Cuba, Freeport in the Bahamas and Florida are all scheduled to operate as planned, however the hurricane policy also applies to passengers due to depart to these destinations in the same time frame,” the airline said in a statement.

More information about Sunwing flights can be found here.

Irma, considered the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, was bearing down on the northeast Caribbean, following a path predicted to then rake Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida.

The eye of the hurricane passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m. ET Wednesday, the U.S. National Weather Service said. Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighbouring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in homes or government shelters.

The Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 295 kilometres per hour, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

American Airlines added extra flights out of the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten and St. Kitts and Nevis to get people out of Irma’s path.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating the six islands in the south because authorities would not be able to help anyone caught in the “potentially catastrophic” storm.

People there would be flown to Nassau starting Wednesday in what he called the largest storm evacuation in the country’s history.

With files from The Associated Press