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Everything Vancouverites need to know about flight changes due to 'unprecedented' hurricanes

Find out what you need to know.
Travellers with flights from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) may need to adjust their plans due to Hurricane Idalia and Hurricane Franklin in August 2023.

Canada's major airlines will allow guests to re-book some flights as a pair of major tropical storms threaten several parts of Florida and the Caribbean.

Since a travel advisory was issued for Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic last week, Hurricane Franklin intensified to a Category 4, meaning winds could reach up to 209 to 251 km/hr and "catastrophic damage will occur" if it makes landfall, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As of Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 29), Franklin was approaching "life-threatening" surf conditions south of the border and is expected to "pass well southeast" of Newfoundland Friday with Category 2 or "strong" Category 1 intensity. 

While the storm isn't expected to make landfall in the United States, there is a possibility that some moisture from it could reach Atlantic Canada late Wednesday, along with "heavy surf conditions" with swells nearly seven feet high approaching the shore that could break up to 10 feet, according to Canada's Tropical Cyclone Information Statement.

Hurricane Idalia to make landfall in Florida 

Meanwhile, Florida has declared a state of emergency as residents situated near the coast brace for Hurricane Idalia to make landfall. The tropical cyclone system was churning in the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 1 storm but is projected to come ashore early Wednesday as a Category 3 system with sustained winds of up to 120 mph (193 kph) in the lightly populated Big Bend region, where the Florida Panhandle bends into the peninsula.

State officials have characterized the storm as "unprecedented," with numerous counties under severe weather advisories and evacuation orders. 

NOAA recently said the 2023 hurricane season would be far busier than initially forecast, partly because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs through Nov. 30, with August and September typically the peak.

If you have flights from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) that are scheduled to visit one of the areas impacted by severe weather, major Canadian airlines Air Canada and WestJet have recommendations for travellers. You can also visit Canada's hurricane tracker to see the path the storms are taking.

Air Canada flights 

Air Canada has implemented a revised ticketing policy for customers who wish to change their flight(s) to a different day, space permitting. 

On Aug. 29 and 30, travel to Tampa or Orlando, Florida, may be impacted by Hurricane Idalia. To make changes to your ticket, go to "Air Canada Manage My Booking Information" online to change your dates for free. 

On Aug. 29 and 30, travel to Bermuda may be impacted by Hurricane Franklin. To make changes to your ticket, go to "Air Canada Manage My Booking Information" online to change your dates for free. 

Air Canada recommends that travellers check their Flight Status online or call Air Canada's automated flight information system at 1-888-422-7533 before heading to the airport.

WestJet flights

WestJet posted a travel advisory on Aug. 27, noting that it has offered flexible change/cancel guidelines for all guests travelling to several Floridian cities, including Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The flexibility for schedule changes may increase based on Hurricane Idalia's behaviour. 

Hurricane/tropical storm travel advisories are issued based on information provided by the Canadian Hurricane Centre or the (American) National Hurricane Center. WestJet will allow you to do one of the following options:

  1. Cancel your reservation -  transfer the full amount paid into a Travel Bank credit valid for one year.
  2. Change your travel dates (subject to availability) to the same flight number, origin, and destination.
    • Choose an earlier date, or a date up to and including 14 days after the original departure date, and WestJet will waive any difference in fare.
    • Choose a date of 15 days or more after your original departure date and normal exchange and refund guidelines will apply.
  3. Change your destination - just pay any difference in fare. If your new itinerary costs less, WestJet give you a Travel Bank credit for the difference.
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