Flights to Charlotte, hotels fill up as people escape Irma

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Residents and tourists in Florida are rushing to get out of the sunshine state before Hurricane Irma hits.

Channel 9 reporter Brittney Johnson was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Thursday and watched as many people arrived from Florida.

[CLICK HERE for the latest updates on Hurricane Irma]

All morning, travelers were arriving on flights from Miami and Jacksonville. Evacuees told Channel 9 they wanted to leave before it was too late.

One woman told Eyewitness News that her entire family was coming up from Florida to stay with relatives in Mooresville. While they're getting away from Irma in their home state, they are concerned that North Carolina is also under a state of emergency.

Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines will stop flights out of affected cities over the weekend.

The panic and demand is having a major impact on flights, and pushing up prices.

[Price gouging complaints include $100 water delivery charge, soaring airfares]

American Airlines, which has a hub in Charlotte and Miami, announced it would cap prices for one-way tickets at $99.

[American Airlines Travel Alerts]

JetBlue statement on Irma evacuees:

We are taking a number of steps to assist existing customers and support new reservations for those looking to evacuate:

  • For existing reservations, JetBlue is waiving cancellation fees as well as waiving change fees and differences in air fare for rebooking. Details on these waivers can be found HERE.
  • We have added flights to our schedule out of select cities where we have aircraft available.

JetBlue and Delta are also putting caps in place to stop the prices from soaring out of control.

[JetBlue offering $99 flights for people evacuating Hurricane Irma]

One evacuee who spoke with Channel 9, Cheryl Comer, said she paid $142 to get to Charlotte, and she's relieved.

“You could feel everything -- the traffic, the anxiety, the feelings that we’ve gone through. So, I basically called the airlines yesterday and said, ‘Where can I go?’ Inexpensive, in a hub and just get out of Jacksonville,” Comer said.

She told Channel 9 that since North Carolina is now under a state of emergency, she’s working with the airlines to travel somewhere safer.

Charlotte hotels booked up

There are more than 7,000 full-service hotel rooms in the city of Charlotte and as of Thursday, nearly all of them were sold out early next week.

Channel 9 called a dozen hotels near the airport and none of them had availability.

Eyewitness News reporter Mark Barber also called Hilton Hotels. The company said it has more than 30 properties associated with their brand in Charlotte and all of them are sold out.

The Cox family said they boarded up their Vero Beach house and loaded their children, their dog and their treasured wedding photos in their van. They decided to stay with family and not in a hotel because they saw prices climbing fast.

"Personally we just couldn't afford it," said evacuee Matthew Cox.

Other people said they managed to land a room just in time.

"They had one room left so I grabbed it and came this way that's how I am here," said evacuee Nancy Brooks. "It's crazy right now, trying to find a room."

If more evacuees pour into Charlotte, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority officials said they are starting to have preliminary discussions with emergency management because they will decide if facilities like Bojangles Coliseum, the Convention Center and Spectrum Center will be open for evacuees.

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