Travel to and from the Caribbean and Florida is currently severely disrupted in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Irma. If you're planning to travel to the region, here's what you need to know.
The tropical cyclone left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean this week, leaving at least 20 dead, and looks set to batter Cuba and south Florida this weekend.
The British Red Cross has launched a major appeal in its wake, and clearly the main story here is a significant natural disaster, with 100,000s of people affected.
But many holidaymakers who are about to travel to the area or plan to in the coming weeks are understandably concerned about what the storm means for them too – here's the latest information on how flights and holidays have been disrupted and what your rights are. For full help, see our Holiday Rights guide.
Here is the info we have as of 5pm on Friday 8 September. This is a developing story so for the very latest travel updates contact your airline or holiday company.
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What's the latest on cancelled flights and holidays?
A number of flights from the UK to the Caribbean and Florida have been cancelled this weekend. Here's what some of the major airlines have said.
- British Airways – All British Airways flights between Heathrow and Miami this Saturday and Sunday have been cancelled, as have flights between Gatwick and Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. BA2256 from St Kitts to Gatwick via Antigua on Saturday has also been cancelled. Other flights to the area are under review – check the status of your flight on BA's website.
- Thomas Cook – Flights to Orlando and Cayo Coco and Varadero in Cuba are cancelled until Sunday – see the latest info here.
- Thomson – Flight TOM374 from Bristol to Orlando on Sunday and TOM742 from Glasgow to Orlando on Monday have been pushed back to 9am on Tuesday. Other passengers travelling to Florida, Dominican Republic and Cuba are advised to continually check Thomson's website for updates.
- Virgin Atlantic – All flights to Orlando on Saturday are cancelled. Other flights to and from Orlando and Miami airports are likely to be affected until Monday – anyone due to travel on these flights should check Virgin's website.
If your flight's been cancelled, you're entitled to choose a refund or an alternative flight – but you're unlikely to be able to claim additional compensation under EU rules as bad weather is usually considered an "extraordinary circumstance". See our Flight Delays guide for more info.
What can I do if I am due to travel to the area but no longer want to?
Most major airlines and holiday firms are offering alternatives for customers who are due to travel to the Caribbean or Florida in the coming days, but now no longer wish to make the trip:
- British Airways – Anyone booked to fly to or from the UK and Antigua, Grand Cayman, Nassau, St Kitts, Punta Cana, Tobago or Providenciales before Sunday 10 September should contact BA for a range of rebooking options – these include travelling to elsewhere or flying at a later date.
If you're flying to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa or Orlando up to Sunday 17 September, you can choose to fly on another date up to Saturday 14 October, or redeem the value of your ticket against a flight elsewhere.
- Thomas Cook – If you're booked to travel to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Miami, the Florida Keys or Orlando, you can cancel for free or amend your booking.
- Thomson – Thomson says it's currently in the process of deciding arrangements for rebooking.
- Virgin Atlantic – If you're booked to fly to the Caribbean or Florida in September you can rebook for a later date, alter your destination or receive a refund. Virgin Holidays also says it will "still look for alternative accommodation" if you want to go ahead with your holiday but the hotel you booked is unavailable.
Am I covered by travel insurance?
The short answer is that it is best to check this with your insurer, as it may vary by policy.
A key question for many is cover for what's known as 'consequential losses' – so if your flight is cancelled, can you reclaim the cost of your hotel, car hire and so on?
Some policies, especially those offering fuller protection, may cover you, often under what's known as 'abandonment protection'. Other policies won't – for example, Axa says customers will only be covered for the cost of alternative accommodation, connecting flights and other public transport if they have bought travel disruption cover as part of their policy.
Some insurers also set their own timescales as to when cover kicks in, for example if you're delayed by at least 24 hours, so it's important to check this. See Consequential loss help for more info.
What if I'm stuck in the Caribbean or Florida?
Contact your airline or package holiday provider for the latest info.
As above, some flights back to the UK have been cancelled and others are being rescheduled.
When there's a delay as a result of a flight cancellation, regardless of what caused it, airlines have to provide assistance, such as food and accommodation.
But this right is only applicable where you choose to be re-routed at the earliest opportunity. If you decide to get a refund for the cancelled flight or decide to be re-routed at a later date, instead of going on the next available flight, the airline doesn't have to provide this assistance.
Airlines may also lay on additional flights as necessary – for example, BA chartered two regional jets from the Caribbean airline Liat to fly customers from St Kitts to Barbados on Friday, and has laid on an extra flight from Barbados to Gatwick on Saturday morning.
What else are companies saying?
Mobile operator Three has said that if you're affected by the hurricane or the earthquake in southern Mexico, it will reimburse any call or text costs you run up contacting loved ones.
The Association of British Insurers says if you do rearrange your travel plans, you should usually be able to transfer any single-trip travel insurance you've bought to cover the new dates. Direct Line has confirmed it will do this free of charge – call it on 0345 246 0415 if you're affected.
Additional reporting by Nick Renaud-Komiya.