A man walks along the waterfront as Hurricane Irene passes to the east of Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas Thursday. (Lynne SladkyBahma/AP)

Airlines have begun issuing travel waivers allowing flyers to change their travel plans that involve the East Coast without penalty as people prepare for Hurricane Irene.

The NationalWeather Service has issued a tropical storm watch for much of the Washington region. Airlines typically scale back service and begin moving their planes to other locales to take them out of harm’s way when such weather threatens.

As a result, airlines implement policies that allow customers to change their plans without incurring normal financial penalties for changing flights.

Delta Air Lines, for example, will allow passengers transiting through airports in the Mid-Atlantic and some portions of the Northeast over the next four days to make changes for free or receive refunds if their flights are canceled or “significantly delayed.

American Airlines followed suit, allowing customers in certain cities who are traveling from today through Tuesday to change their flights without a fee.

Southwest Airlines, which controls about 32 percent of flights in the region through its recent merger with AirTran, also began waiving fees for flights through certain airports, including Baltimore and Dulles airports.

All airlines have not implemented Northeast travel policies, but that has been changing as Hurricane Irene advances north. Many of the waivers have been focused on flights in the Southeast and the Caribbean.

At Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, officials said they were preparing for the prospect of strong wind and heavy rains.

“BWI Marshall Airport is working to plan for this significant storm,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, the executive director.  “Advance notice of the storm has allowed us to prepare by monitoring terminal and airfield drainage, checking generators, and securing any equipment that may become airborne as a result of high winds.”

People who plan to fly within the next few days should check with their airlines for specific information on how their flights may be affected.


Capital Weather Gang

Amtrak canceling some weekend service


Airlines serving BWI
Airlines serving Dulles
Airlines serving Reagan National
The FAA's Flight Delay map

Airline advisories
AirTran Airways
American Airlines
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Delta Airlines
Frontier Airlines
Southwest Airlines
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