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JetBlue offers $99 flights out of Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma

Sept 6 (Reuters) - JetBlue Airways Corp is offering $99 direct flights from every Florida city where it operates, the airline said on Wednesday, as people hurry to leave before powerful Hurricane Irma hits the state.

A price cap through Sept. 10 is also in place for all of JetBlue's Florida connecting flights, a maximum fare of $159 up to the last available seat, the company said.

"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.

Flights in the eastern Caribbean through Sept. 7 and in the western Caribbean through Sept. 8 are also under a fare ceiling.

Florida remained under a state of emergency as Irma, packing winds of up to 185 miles per hour (295 km per hour), tracked across the northern Caribbean on a path expected to hit landfall in the United States over the weekend.

Airlines have been criticized for raising prices in the wake of deadly episodes such as a 2015 Amtrak derailment, but U.S. officials said last year they found no evidence of wrongdoing in that instance.

Irma's arrival marks the second time in as many weeks U.S. airline operations will be disrupted by a powerful storm.

Last week, Category 4 Hurricane Harvey landed in Texas and swallowed up much of Houston with powerful winds and deadly flooding. Airline operations were crippled for several days as airports closed, forcing thousands of flight cancellations. (Reporting by Alana Wise in New York and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)