Forecast map: Hurricane Irene changes course for US east coast

By John Walton, August 22 2011
Forecast map: Hurricane Irene changes course for US east coast

Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic is causing havoc in the Caribbean, and forecast to strengthen into a major hurricane before landfall on the US East Coast overnight on Saturday in the US.

Cities and hub airports including Miami, Charlotte, Washington DC and even New York Newark, JFK and La Guardia could be affected.

Irene had previously been forecast to hit around Miami, but has swung east. Disruption may be felt across the US, and especially if you're connecting through Qantas' partner American Airlines' Latin America hub at Miami, you might want to contact your airline to see what your options are.

Connecting through Dallas or Los Angeles on Qantas and American Airlines? You might see some effects too: impacts are often felt across airlines' networks.

US Airways' hub in Charlotte, United's hub at Washington Dulles and flights at Dulles and Washington National may all be disrupted by the hurricane. Effects of Atlantic hurricanes have previously stretched as far north as New York City and the US Northeast.

Even if your Los Angeles-New York flight is going nowhere near the hurricane, the plane could be flying into LA from Miami, and be delayed or diverted. And with a major hub out of action or starting to shut down, remaining flights may be busier than normal and you have a greater chance of being bumped off.

The storm is currently in the Caribbean, forecast to strengthen to major hurricane status, and come ashore sometime overnight on Saturday US time, likely as a hurricane. Four-to-five day hurricane forecasts are notoriously tricky, but the impacts of landfall on business travel are intensive. Here's the current forecast map from the US National Hurricane Center.

Closed airports, aircraft out of place, delays across airline networks, disrupted road travel, no room in local hotels and overbooked flights are just the tip of the iceberg for travellers who aren't even destined for areas likely to be hit by the hurricane.

US airlines, especially those with extensive operations along the hurricane-prone US East and Gulf Coasts, have well-practiced plans for evacuating aircraft and passengers away from danger.

So be prepared and know what your options are ahead of time. Read through our comprehensive advice on what to do when you suspect your travel plans might be disrupted. And keep checking back here at Australian Business Traveller for updates.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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