Canadian airlines Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet have responded to Hurricane Irma’s rampage through the Caribbean by sending aircraft to remove their passengers from the Dominican Republic, with CBC News reporting that WestJet has also sent a plane to evacuate its travellers in Turks & Caicos.
The category 5 hurricane is reportedly the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, with Antigua and Barbuda hit first before it moved to the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.
Other islands expected to fall into its path on Wednesday include Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba also bracing themselves for impact.
Air Transat begins evacuations
Air Transat is conducting an evacuation operation to airlift all of its travellers out of the Dominican Republic, sending a total of 10 aircraft – seven to Punta Cana, two to Puerto Plata, and one to Samana.
Passengers are expected to be back in Canada by the afternoon or early evening of Sept. 6, and the airline continues to closely monitor the situation.
Transat has also implemented its hurricane policy for flights scheduled until Sept. 11, 2017 for the Dominican Republic (Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Samana, La Romana); Cuba (Varadero, Cayo Coco, Santa Clara, Holguin); and Haiti (Port au Prince). Regular updates are to be posted on the company’s websites.
According to CBC News, WestJet has also sent planes to the Caribbean, with one travelling to Punta Cana, another to Puerto Plata, and another to Turks and Caicos.
The airline also issued an advisory in its website, advising guests travelling to or from several Caribbean islands between Sept. 5-11, 2017 to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport.
Sunwing activates plans
Sunwing also confirmed that it had activated plans to repatriate customers in their destinations currently under hurricane watch or warning. The airline said that it was in regular contact with its local representatives, adding that its hurricane policy had also been extended to all southbound passengers that were scheduled to travel to several destinations between Sept. 6-10 inclusive.
Two special flights were sent by Sunwing to St. Martin on Sept. 5 to evacuate affected passengers, with special rescue flights also dispatched to Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Southbound flights to Punta Cana were cancelled on Sept. 6 and 7, along with Sept. 8 flights to Puerto Plata.
Sunwing flights to Cuba, Freeport in the Bahamas and Florida are all expected to go ahead as planned, although the hurricane policy also applies to passengers due to depart to those destinations in the same time frame.
The airline encouraged travellers to consult www.sunwing.ca/arrdepinfo.asp, where new flight times are being posted as they become available.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization issued a statement on Irma as it continues to wreak havoc, expressing concern for residents and tourists in the affected countries and praying for a reduced impact.
“We have been in contact with our members and they assure us that they have been taking all the necessary steps to ensure that they are in a state of readiness,” the statement read.
“We take this storm seriously. The safety of the Caribbean’s citizens and our visitors is the number one concern for the authorities and emergency response teams throughout the region.”
The CTO advised that it was actively monitoring the hurricane and would share updates from member countries on www.onecaribbean.org and its social media channels as they became available.
The storm has also prompted numerous cruise cancellations, including those from Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival and Royal Caribbean.