Flights to and from Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and other Mexican cities in the path of Hurricane Patricia are already being affected by what is now the strongest hurricane on record in the western hemisphere.
As of Friday morning, the Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds near 325 km/h (200 mph) and is forecast to make landfall on the coast of the state of Jalisco, where both Puerto Vallarta and Mexico’s second-largest city Guadalajara are located, sometime Friday evening.
WATCH ABOVE: Hurricane Patricia is packing winds of 200 miles per hour with gusts up to 250 miles per hour. More than seven million residents in Mexico are in the path of the storm.
[email protected] VIIRS imagery of #Patricia. Landfall as a Catagory 5 storm expected within 12hrs. https://t.co/JBalL2pAXM pic.twitter广州桑拿网/4iGmes0dA4
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) October 23, 2015
The storm is being compared to Typhoon Haiyan, which left 7,300 people dead or missing when it struck the Philippines in Nov. 2013.
READ MORE: Mexico braces for monster Category 5 Hurricane Patricia
The Dept. of Foreign Affairs has advised Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to areas of Mexico stretching from South Blas south to Lazaro Cadenas, warning heavy rain and extreme winds may lead to flash floods and landslides.
Several flights have already been delayed or cancelled in advance of the storm making landfall. Puerto Vallarta’s Gustovo Diaz Ordaz International airport closed down Friday, along with many businesses.
An airline employee walks in the empty airport where all flights are cancelled as Hurricane Patricia approaches the Pacific resort city Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Friday. Oct. 23, 2015. Cesar Rodriguez/AP Photo
An airline employee walks in the empty airport where all flights are cancelled as Hurricane Patricia approaches the Pacific resort city Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Friday. Oct. 23, 2015.
Cesar Rodriguez/AP Photo
WestJet cancelled its Friday afternoon flight (Flight WS 2312) from Calgary to Puerto Vallarta and a flight returning to Calgary (Flight WS2347) scheduled for 4:45 p.m. local time. All five flights to Puerto Vallarta scheduled for Saturday — one each from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto —have also been cancelled.
The airline encourages all passengers with flights booked for Friday and Saturday to check the status of flights before heading to the airport.
In a statement to Global News, WestJet spokesperson Robert Palmer said there were approximately 300 WestJet Vacation customers staying in 22 hotels in an around Puerto Vallarta, but that number did not include passengers who did not book accommodation with WestJet.
WATCH: Hurricane Patricia has left several Calgarians trapped, while others trying to fly there have discovered their vacation plans have been put on hold. Global’s Gary Bobrovitz reports.
READ MORE: B.C. residents in Puerto Vallarta brace for Category 5 Hurricane Patricia
“We began reaching out to our WestJet Vacations guests last night to advise them to remain where they are and follow the emergency procedures of their hotels,” Palmer said. “These hotels and their staff have dealt with hurricanes numerous times before and have plans in place.
” Guests should not try to leave on their own but rather, remain where they are and follow the instructions of their hotel and local authorities.”
Sunwing delayed Friday morning flights for Puerto Vallarta from Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Sunwing Flight WG 527 out of Edmonton has been rescheduled to depart at 12:10 a.m. Saturday, while Flight WG 527 out of Vancouver is set to depart at 1:30 a.m. and Flight WG 559 from Calgary is planned to take off at 2:05 a.m., according to the airline’s website.
WATCH: Tourists are evacuating as residents prep for Hurricane Patricia’s landfall in Mexico
Air Canada said on its website it has “revised its ticketing policy” so customers can make arrangements for other flights without incurring any penalties. The air carrier is already warning that operations at Ordaz airport could still be recovering from the storm on Sunday, when it’s weekly direct flight from Toronto to Puerto Vallarta is due to depart.
Travel Alert – October 25th : Puerto Vallarta. Details, Flight Status & rebook online. Change fees waived: https://t.co/j6Q9rcq8zw
— Air Canada (@AirCanada) October 23, 2015
Air Transat has yet to delay or cancel its 8:30 a.m. Saturday flight from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta, but the air carrier warned it is monitoring the situation and updates will be posted on the company’s website.
READ MORE: Hurricane Patricia: How strong is the ‘potentially catastrophic’ storm?
Canadian travellers who may have flights book on U.S-based airlines should also be aware of how airlines are dealing with disruptions caused by Patricia, which has the potential to cause “catastrophic” damage, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Centre.
United Airlines has flights to and from several destinations in Patricia’s path, including Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Manzanillo, Durango and San Luis Potosi.
The airline will waive fees and the cost of any fare difference for customers who need to reschedule flights booked for Friday and Saturday.
WATCH: Images from the International Space Station show the massive category five Hurricane Patricia, that is due to make landfall in Mexico sometime on Friday.
Delta Airlines advises the airline expects flights to be impacted between Friday and Sunday. Customers whose flights are cancelled or “significantly delayed” will be entitled to a refund. But the airline also informed customers they are entitled to a one-time ticket change without incurring any additional costs, so long as the ticket is reissued no later than Oct. 30 and travel begins no later than that date.
Passengers booked on a Southwest Airlines flight to or from Puerto Vallarta are also eligible to rebook their flights free of charge, after cancelling its Friday flights to the city of approximately 255,000 people. The airline expects there could be disruption to flights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Like the other carriers, American Airlines is offering to waive the ticketing fee for one time only for passengers flying in or out of Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan on Friday or Saturday, so long as the ticket was bought prior to Oct. 22 and the passenger is flexible to travel between today and Wednesday.