With Hurricane Felicia gaining strength in the Pacific and forecasters preparing for storms in the Atlantic, there's no doubt the heart of tropical storm season is upon us. But as any savvy traveler knows, hurricane season can be a great time to save in places like the Caribbean and Mexico, as long as you're willing to risk a storm disrupting or even canceling your vacation.
Enter JetBlue, which just launched its Weather or Not Hurricanes Getaways Protection, a program that provides free changes and cancellations if your JetBlue vacation package is affected by a hurricane. Here are the details:
- Book by November 8 for travel between September 1 and November 13.
- Travel is limited to certain hotels in Bermuda, Cancun, Montego Bay, Nassau, San Juan, and St. Maarten.
- To be eligible for a pre-departure refund, you must be scheduled to depart for your vacation within three days after JetBlue issues a hurricane travel alert for your destination, and you must request a refund prior to your scheduled departure.
- Post-departure refunds are a bit trickier. You can rebook on an earlier JetBlue return flight without incurring change fees, receive a hotel credit for the unused number of nights of your hotel stay (to be applied to a future JetBlue Getaways vacation to the same hotel), and receive a flight credit of $100 per person toward the flight portion of a future JetBlue Getaways vacation destination.
- To be eligible for a credit, you must have already departed at the time JetBlue issues a hurricane travel alert for your destination, change your reservation to return early because of this travel alert, and request your credit within fourteen days of boarding your new return flight.
- Finally, a weather alert is defined as red link labeled "Travel Alert" at the top of jetblue.com. The alert must specifically be a hurricane alert for your destination in order to apply to your travels.
This is definitely a case where you should read all of the fine print.
Seems like a pretty good deal to me, though travelers don't appear to be protected from nasty tropical storms that aren't hurricanes but could still ruin a vacation. It's worth noting, though, that carriers usually waive change fees when severe weather threatens or impacts a destination, so the inclusion of that option isn't much of a stretch for JetBlue. But automatic refunds and credits will go a long way toward mitigating the risk one incurs when booking off-peak travel to these destinations. My one real criticism? August, which is typically the worst month for hurricanes (along with September) isn't included.
Interestingly, JetBlue's hurricane protection policy comes on the heels of Lufthansa's so-called sunshine insurance plan, and it's fair to say both offers are aimed at spurring sluggish sales. It will be interesting to see if more carriers get in on the act.
Would hurricane insurance persuade you to grab a good deal to the Caribbean this summer or fall? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. Thanks!