In what is becoming an annual occurrence, devastating wildfires have appeared in multiple regions across the Americas over the summer period and much attention has been paid towards how local airlines have responded to customer requests for help. 

In Hawaii, wildfires on the island of Maui have already taken the lives of 111 people and more than 1,000 people are still missing after fires destroyed the town of Lahaina. 

American Airlines has reacted by increasing the number of flights operating in and out of the island’s Kahului Airport to evacuate more than 4,200 people. 

The airline has also said that its Maui-based team has provided amenity kits, blankets and other supplies to people at the airport and around the island. 

Similarly, Hawaiian Airlines has been collecting donations for a special relief fund under its Wings of Hope program and has sent 500 pounds (226kg) of items to families in need. 

Meanwhile, while Air Canada has waived rebooking and cancellation fees for customers due to fly to and from Maui and areas of Canada affected by wildfires, the airline has also faced criticism online with people posting screenshots of seemingly surcharged prices. 

More than 200 fires have been burning in the Northwest Territories leaving thousands of residents forced to evacuate certain areas, including the capital city Yellowknife which is home to 20,000 people, who were all ordered to leave by noon on Friday (PT, 18 August). 

However, the airline has said that it has put in place a cap to limit fares for direct flights out of the Yellowknife area in the Northwest Territories and that the screenshots were not representative of Air Canada’s own prices but instead showed aggregated fares often involving multiple stops. 

A statement from the company said: “We endeavour to get these aggregated fares corrected where possible – however, customers should always ensure they are purchasing the non-stop fares directly from the website or from a travel agent to avoid the multi-leg routings.” 

Wildfires have also forced thousands to leave some areas of British Columbia, including the city of Kelowna, where Air Canada also waived rebooking fees for flights in and out of the city. 

Another Canadian airline, WestJet, has also faced criticism after some customers said that they had been charged high fees for rescheduling flights. 

In response, the airline said it had adjusted fare classes to avoid price escalations and added extra flights, as well as introducing flexible change/cancel guidelines for all customers travelling to Yellowknife. 

The company also took similar action for its flights to Maui.