Airlines Immune From Price Gouging Laws In Florida, Royally Screwing Evacuees

Imagine you just heard on the news that “the strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic” was headed your way, and soon. You would, like anyone concerned for themselves and their family, want to get out as soon as possible. And the quickest way to evacuate from anywhere is the fastest method of travel on earth: Air. But you hit a small snag. You don’t have the goddamn fortune that the airlines are now charging for flights that were less than half as much the day before. That has to be against the law, right?

Wrong. In Florida, where Hurricane Irma is bearing down like a banshee, there are price-gouging laws like there are in every state. But airlines don’t answer to specific states. They’re regulated by the FAA and the Department of Transportation, which means no state or local statutes apply to them.

So when Lisette Diaz tried to book a flight to get her family out of South Florida, she found that flights from the area — during what is normally a lull in the travel season in Florida — had skyrocketed from a few hundred dollars to over $3,000. Trying to get to New York, she finally settled on tickets out of Fort Lauderdale that cost upwards of $1,300 per traveler. According to the Miami Herald, there were four people traveling with her, including her mother, grandmother, adult cousin, and 11-year-old sister. $6,600 later, she had her tickets.

Diaz was far from the only person to run into price gouging. Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi activated the state’s price-gouging hotline for travelers to report these egregious acts.

The Herald reported that Antonio Mercurius actually got his tickets from Miami to D.C. on Monday, before the pricing spikes. Out of curiosity, he checked the price of the same ticket the next day and found it had gone up more than 800% per ticket. Said Mercurius,

I understand supply and demand but the laws of capitalism should not operate in the times of catastrophic danger. What happens to the people that can’t afford flights now?

People trying to evacuate responsibly before the storm vented their frustration on Twitter:

Leave it to the industry that brought you fees for everything from blankets and pillows to a simple name change on a ticket to really kick evacuees while they’re down. While we watch storms like Harvey and Irma bring out the best in neighbors and charities, the airline industry quietly profits for our misery.

Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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