"We arrived yesterday and we were planning to stay until Sunday", said Menegazzo, who was standing in line at an American Airlines counter to try to catch a flight to Mexico. He said a 737 nearly certainly would have been lost in the storm.
This required the fully loaded 737-900, not known as one of the industry's muscle-bound hot rods, to thread the needle and fly between two of the hurricane's numerous bands.
Irma's track now has the storm turning north and rolling along the east coast of Florida as an intense hurricane.
Farther north in South Carolina, Boeing said it was suspending manufacturing operations starting on Saturday morning. In addition, the airline will waive all baggage and pet-in-cabin fees for customers traveling to or from selected cities.
Delta says fliers hit with ridiculous fare quotes should call the airline, which may be able to help them find a cheaper way out of Florida. JetBlue and American both said they are selling remaining direct flights this week for $99, while Delta is capping direct flights at $399.
Delta Airlines offered flights to New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.
"It's very hard to book a flight right now", Nipps said.
The three-hour and 49-minute flight become more thrilling than a movie on the seat-back screen, as aviation fans - such as Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) - monitored the flight's progress through online tracking services. Airlines were besieged by negative comments on social media, only reinforcing the public's deep antipathy for the airline industry.
"There's only so much airline capacity to any destination", he said. Normally, these last-minute fares may be expensive. Harvey eviscerated the airline's operations in Houston, canceling 7,400. The airline has also expanded its weather waiver to include airports along the Georgia and SC coast.
There are some evacuations in Fort Lauderdale.
Over 100 American Airlines flights have been cancelled for the weekend until further notice. The latest predictions are that Irma will hit the Puerto Rican island of Culebra around 4 p.m. and the main island around 6 p.m.