As Hurricane Irma barrels towards south Florida, many residents are trying to get out of the disaster zone and hop on a flight — only to be met with sky-high ticket prices.
READ MORE: At least 10 dead as Hurricane Irma rages through Caribbean, heads closer to Florida
Irma, the second powerful hurricane to approach the United States in as many weeks, is expected to make landfall in Florida by Sunday. It’s already pummeled islands in the Caribbean with rain and pounding winds — and killed at least 10 people.
Because of the destruction, residents in parts of the Miami metro area are under mandatory orders to leave their homes as the Category 5 storm gets closer. Many are driving out and others are trying to get on domestic flights.
But some ticket prices for domestic flights were ranging from $3,000 to $6,000, according to Twitter posts.
WATCH: People fleeing Hurricane Irma cause traffic jam on highway out Florida
Airlines have been criticized in the past for raising prices in the wake of deadly episodes and, as Irma approached, some social media users accused carriers of engaging in price-gouging schemes ahead of the dangerous storm.
Are airlines price gouging?
“This is what happens when thousands of people want to leave a place all at once,” Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly, told The Verge.
The final seats on a flight are typically more expensive due to a number of reasons; first class tickets may be the only ones left or the flight is overbooked, he said.
American Airlines, the largest U.S. carrier by passenger traffic, denies price gouging.
“We have not changed our fare structures, and, in fact, have added capacity to help get customers out of the affected areas,” American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody said in a statement Wednesday.
Although the flight prices are skyrocketing due to an algorithm, airlines do have the ability to bring down prices, Kaplan said.
And that’s exactly what some airlines did.
American Air Lines and Jet Blue Airways said they will put fare caps on flights out of Florida for $99 pre-tax. Delta Air Lines said it would cap its flights out of Florida and affected areas at $399.
“While there are limited seats remaining before the storm hits, we will cap our pre-tax fares at $99 for MainCabin seats on direct, single leg flights out of Florida for tickets sold through Sunday Sept. 10 for travel until Sept. 13,” a spokesperson for American Airlines said in a statement to Business Insider.
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But the flights are selling out fast (many had already sold out after Global News did a quick search).
American Airlines is cancelling some of its inbound and outbound Florida flights over the weekend.
“Due to the track of the storm, we will wind down operations on Friday afternoon at our Miami hub, as well as Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach,” a spokesperson for American Airlines said in a statement.
WATCH: Hurricane Irma leaves a trail of destruction in the Caribbean
“Additionally, flights that were scheduled to arrive in Miami Friday from Europe and South America have also been canceled. Our last departure on Friday from Miami is scheduled to be AA2213, departing at 3:49 p.m. ET for Dallas/Fort Worth.”
— With files from Reuters
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