Chabeli Herrera MIAMI HERALD
Is a $786 One-Way Flight out of Puerto Rico Price Gouging? Airlines Say No
September 27, 2017
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  • When singer Ricky Martin tweeted a screenshot of $2,000-plus fares from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami, he added his voice to the chorus that sings whenever a natural disaster, frustrated travelers and the economics of airline pricing come together.

    Their anthem? “Price Gouging.”


    The tweet, posted Monday at 12:47 p.m., had earned more than 13,000 “likes” and more than 6,300 retweets 24 hours later. The protest closely mirrored another in the days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, when comedian Chelsea Handler tweeted a screenshot of a $3,258.50 Delta Air Lines flight from Miami to Phoenix, calling on a boycott of the airline — albeit with more colorful language than Martin.

    Before Hurricane Irma, the complaints of price gouging were enough to push airlines to cap their fares, beginning with JetBlue, but only after a few days of angry tweets. Before Hurricane Maria, the lines seemed to want to get ahead of the uproar, capping flights early in the storm’s progress.

    But for those trying to get out of Puerto Rico after Maria, the caps, which change often and include a number of restrictions, haven’t been enough to ameliorate the frustration passengers feel.

    Screenshots of higher-than-normal fares from San Juan to the mainland United States still proliferate on social media. In their replies, airlines try to soothe griping passengers.

    If you’re trying to find a flight out of Puerto Rico, put on that patience hat. Below are some of your price gouging questions answered, and tips for finding affordable flights.

    Why are flights out of regions hit by hurricanes so expensive before or after the passage of the storm?

    Last-minute flights in general, whether from areas hit by a storm or not, are expensive. It’s simple supply and demand. A day or two before a flight is scheduled to leave, very few, if any, seats remain. Those seats sell for much steeper prices than usual.

    Most travelers trying to catch flights out of a region in a storm’s path were trying to snag those few remaining seats, and because of that, the prices were high.

    Travelers in Puerto Rico face long waits, limited power in terminals after Hurricane Maria

    Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei and photojournalist Carl Juste boarded one of the earliest flights out of San Juan flying back to Miami on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. Mazzei recaps her reporting since Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory.