Airlines reschedule, issue waivers as second hurricane looms.

Airlines are issuing fare waivers and rescheduling flights as a second, even more powerful hurricane threatens the United States.

As Texas and Louisiana recovered from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma was upgraded Tuesday to a category 5 storm and described as “potentially catastrophic” as it headed through the Caribbean towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Weather experts said it was the second strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds of 185mph (297kmh) tipped to generate storm surges of seven to 11 feet.

Also potentially affected are the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cuba.

While the path remains uncertain, there are fears it could pick up pace in the warm waters near Florida and turn north, prompting authorities in Florida to declare a state of emergency and activate the National Guard.

Orders for visitors to evacuate the Florida Keys were expected to be issued Wednesday, according to CNN.

Hurricane irma map[
Areas potentially affected by the hurricane. Source: NOAA.

Airlines had already issued travel alerts for the Caribbean and on Tuesday updated them to include  Florida.

American Airlines’ alert included 24  Caribbean airports as well as the mainland destinations Key West (EYW), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Miami (MIA), Palm Beach (PBI), Fort Myers, (RSW) and Sarasota (SRQ).

The alert allows people travelling between  September 5 and September 12 to  rebook without change fees or request a refund where their flight has been cancelled or excessively delayed.

Other US carrier such as Delta, United and Southwest also issued travel alerts with details listed on their websites.

Overseas tourist are also not immune with trans-Atlantic carriers such as British Airways cancelling  flights to the Caribbean and issuing alerts about Florida.

The BBC reported the British carrier cancelled its flight to Antigua on Tuesday and sent an empty aircraft the Caribbean island to bring travellers home early.

The latest threat comes after Hurricane Harvey was responsible for the majority of more than 13,300 cancellations over a 12-day period to September 5, according to USA Today.

This compared to about 20,000 flight cancellations due to East Coast super storm Sandy in 2012.

Flights to Texas and the Gulf Coast have been resuming but the cost of recovering from the devastation caused by Harvey has been put as high as $US180 billion .

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