Airlines cap fares and add flights from Hawaii as Hurricane Lane approaches islands

  • Airlines came under pressure for high airfares ahead of Hurricane Irma last year.
  • All major airlines have issued waivers for passengers who want to travel at a later date.
  • Hurricane Lane is expected to travel westward, south of the Hawaiian islands.
 A lounge in Daniel K. Inouye International Airport sits mostly empty as Hurricane Lane approaches the island chain on August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 
Mario Tama | Getty Images
 A lounge in Daniel K. Inouye International Airport sits mostly empty as Hurricane Lane approaches the island chain on August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Airlines are adding flights from Hawaii, capping airfares and waiving change fees as Hurricane Lane moves closer to the popular vacation destination.

The National Hurricane Center measured maximum sustained winds in the Category 4 storm of 140 miles per hour and said it will likely be southwest of the islands by Friday.

Consumers and lawmakers complained about high fares last year ahead of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that hit Cuba and Florida, prompting image-conscious airlines to cap prices. Availability and demand are main factors when determining airfares, and airlines need to manually change prices.

United Airlines said it added two flights out of Honolulu to its San Francisco hub on Thursday, including one on a Boeing 777-300, the largest in its fleet. It also reduced fares below what last-minute ticket prices would be. A one-way nonstop flight from Honolulu to San Francisco on United, leaving Friday, ranged from $234 to $339.

"We have taken steps to reduce fares beyond what a regular last-minute fare would be," United spokesman Frank Benenati said, adding that passengers "traveling to, from or through areas" affected by the hurricane can waive their change fees and difference in airfare.

Delta Air Lines added a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles that can carry about 200 passengers. The Atlanta-based carrier as well as American Airlines said fares were also adjusted to prevent sky-high last-minute pricing, but those vary by route and time. Nonstop, one-way fares from Honolulu to Los Angeles on Friday ranged from $249 to $468 on American.

Those airlines, along with Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines, are waiving change fees for travelers affected by the storm.

As of Thursday afternoon United said it had canceled its Friday flights in and out of Kahului Airport on Maui.

Another concern is damage it may cause to roadways that may prevent crews from getting to airports, said American spokesman Ross Feinstein.

Adding flights to Hawaii is not a simple task during the busy summer travel season, requiring carriers to send scarce aircraft and crews to Hawaii, and ensure the employees have enough rest before they can work a flight.