British Airways has been forced to delay, re-route or cancel several flights as Caribbean islands brace themselves for a second hurricane this month.
The airline is also giving all passengers due to travel to the affected area the option to delay their travel up to September 30 or book an alternative destination.
Hurricane Maria has already caused widespread damage to the Caribbean island of Dominica after strengthening to a category five storm last night.
It has since been downgraded to a category four after losing some of its power, but it is expected to cause significant damage to several other Caribbean islands that lie in its way.
Maria is expected to follow roughly the same path as Hurricane Irma, which devastated several islands and parts of Florida earlier this month.
If it keeps on the same trajectory, Maria will hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday. The US and British Virgin Islands, St Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat have also issued hurricane warnings.
A tropical storm warning is also in force in Martinique,Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten, St Lucia and Anguilla.
As a result, St Lucia, Antigua and St Kitts airports have closed, forcing BA to cancel, re-route or delay its flights. The airline has also cancelled its Domincan Republic flights on Thursday. However, an extra flight from Punta Cana to Gatwick has been laid on for tomorrow morning and passengers due to travel on Thursday have automatically been rebooked onto this service.
The US National Hurricane Center said the storm would likely intensify tomorrow, noting that its eye had shrunk to a compact 10 miles across and warning: “Maria is developing the dreaded pinhole eye.”
Experts said ‘potentially life-threatening’ storm surges could also raise water levels by six to nine feet near its centre.
The Foreign Office is currently advising against all travel to the BVI and has warned travellers to Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and other islands: “Please be aware that our ability to provide assistance to you will be extremely limited.”
A hotline for people concerned about family and friends has been set up: 020 7008 0000.
The BVIs are expected to be hit today or tomorrow and Maria is likely to reach the Turks and Caicos by Thursday, said the Foreign Office.