Airlines Issuing Waivers In Anticipation Of Developing Hurricanes

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

This could shape up to be a tough week weather-wise.

If you haven’t heard, there are several large storms brewing in the Atlantic, with Florence being the most imminent and aggressive.

Florence is now a Category 4 hurricane, and is expected to reach the Carolina coast Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Guam and the Marianas are dealing with Typhoon Mangkhut, which is expected to continue increasing in strength as it moves through the Pacific:

And Hurricane Olivia is brewing off the coast of Hawaii:

Significant amounts of rain (much less a hurricane) can often cause systemwide disruptions — though given the nature of South Pacific and Hawaii operations the impacts  in those regions will likely be fairly localized.

Florence is the greater concern for general airline operations, given the density of airports, crews, and aircrafts on the U.S. Eastern seaboard.

So, if you’re scheduled to travel in the coming days you’ll want to take precautions, and monitor the situation closely.

Typically the best case scenarios once these storms make landfall involve widespread power outages and flash flooding. Even if you’re traveling to an area which isn’t directly in the storm path, you should expect operational delays and challenges at nearby airports, or those that normally have substantial numbers of flights to impacted airports.

Current Hurricane Flight Cancelations & Waivers

At present, we aren’t seeing mass cancelations of flights yet. That could always change though, and some airlines have already posted weather waivers.

In general, the airlines are going to accommodate you if you’re able or willing to move your plans around — after all, they don’t benefit from having cranky passengers stuck in the terminal either. There are nuances to each policy though, so you can see the individual policies on the airline sites.

Not every airline has posted a waiver, but I’ve included the links to where a waiver will potentially be posted regardless:

Keep in mind that as the severity of the storm increases, the parameters of the waiver can change. At the time of this writing, for example, most airlines are not waving cancelation fees, but are allowing you to rebook for later in the weekend, or next week.

Tips for rebooking

Regardless of the reason for flight cancelations, phone queues can get ugly fast. Given that many people need to rebook at the same time, you might be able to get new plans confirmed more quickly by using an alternate method.

Try the club lounge

Don’t leave this until the day of travel, but if the situation changes and you’re already at the airport, start with the lounge agents. They tend to have fewer passengers to deal with than the gate agents, and thus may have more time (and more patience), when it comes to rebooking your flight. The exception is Alaska, as due to contractual reasons their lounge agents literally can’t help with flight reservations.

Reach out on social media

I’ve had good luck changing flights by sending direct messages to American via Twitter. Several other airlines have a Twitter presence as well, and while they might not be able to fix your reservation, it’s worth trying:

Avoid the domestic call centers

If you’re willing to spend a few dollars on Skype or Google Voice credit, calling the international call center for an airline can often save you an hour or more of hold time.

Almost all of these call centers have an English-speaking option, but you can also call Australia, or even just Canadian numbers can get you through faster.

¿Hablas Español?

If you have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish (like, just enough to get through the computer system), you can try the Spanish-speaking numbers. Again, fewer people calling means shorter hold times, and the agents typically speak English as well.

  • American Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-633-3711
  • United Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-426-5561

Be your own advocate

This is maybe more a life philosophy than one specific to travel disruptions, but it holds true — no one cares about you (or your travel) as much as you do.

So be nice, but ask questions, present alternatives, be prepared to book your own hotel rather than waiting in line with a hundred other people for a voucher, and so forth.

If you stand around and wait, you will almost certainly have a worse time than those who are actively finding solutions to the situation.

Check your credit card coverage

If you purchased your tickets with a credit card, you may have some additional protection and benefits when your flight is delayed. Check with your credit card company, or see our list of popular travel cards with good delay coverage.

These cards will often cover your hotel, or the cost of a new flight, and so forth, so it’s good to know both the benefits and the requirements to file a claim.

Bottom line

As I say every time we have a major storm, you want to be as proactive as possible in these situations. Pay attention to your flight, along with the status of your inbound aircraft, and be prepared to react quickly and creatively.

If you have plans to travel to the region, I’d suggest rescheduling now, as it looks like the ground situation is going to be messy at best. And keep in mind that even if you aren’t traveling in, to, or through the storm corridor, your aircraft might be, so you could still be impacted by this storm.

This isn’t a situation you can control, but you can lessen the impact on your life. The best thing to do is pay attention, and be as proactive as you can.

Anyone living in or flying to/through these areas later this week? What’s your plan?

  1. Any recommendations for having booked travel through a partner? I used 12k Avios from the Iberia promotion to fly RT to CLT on AA, and with having booked through Iberia I’m unsure if they’ll willingly refund / change dates, and AA won’t do anything for me since it was booked through a “third party.”

  2. Daughter is flying Back from Seattle to Raleigh Thursday non-stop on Alaska. Arrival time 3:40pm right as things are supposed to start getting nasty. As of Last night Alaska will waive the change fee but will NOT waive the difference in flight cost when we called to try and push her to a Sat or Sun Flight or possibly even out on Wed. So We have to wait until they announce waivers or cancel the flight before we can react accordingly, BUT WE TRIED!!!!!

  3. @Todd – I have a coworker leaving RDU to SEA (the return flight of your daughters plane) on Thursday. Call back after 6 p.m. They will have made a decision.

  4. @ Austin — Call American again. It doesn’t matter who booked the flight, they are the operating carrier, and should be happy to rebook you (though will not refund you, you’d need to talk to Iberia for that).

  5. FYI for anyone flying American Airlines, 1-800-4-AirCal, is a back door phone number for AA reservations. Still works today, will connect you straight through to an agent.

  6. I’m flying from DCA through CLT on Friday AM. Would like to switch to an ORD connection instead to avoid the storm. When I log-in and try to switch flights online, choosing a different CLT connection is free but through ORD is hundreds more. What’s the point of that – shouldn’t the waiver be so you can try to avoid flying through the storm? What am I missing here?

  7. Update: Called and asked them about the ORD flights I had found and wanted.  Immediately put onto the flights, no change fee at all.  So the website is really all messed up – just call in and you can switch off a CLT connection no problem.

  8. Even though United hasn’t made an official statement, in preparation for the storm United did waive my fees to rebook to a future flight today. I live in the RDU area with a flight to IAD today returning to RDU Thursday. No status with United, they just put me on hold and decided to waive it as of 11:30 am today, good luck.

  9. RE: “…As of last night Alaska will waive the change fee but will NOT waive the difference in flight cost when we called to try and push her to a Sat or Sun Flight or possibly even out on Wed. ”

    That’s my big gripe with most airlines. When an catastrophic event like a major storm is looming, and the airline issues a notice that change fees will be waived, they often don’t waive the difference in costs between your existing reservation and your new one. You need to wait until doom is imminent before that happens. So forget about being proactive. Just join the queue of folks desperately trying to get through to an agent at the last minute and making life miserable for the airlines and everyone else.

    I hope airline reps are reading this..

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