As the projected severity of the winter storm in the Northeast increases, most domestic airlines in the US have either canceled flights, or issued waivers for travel over the next few days.
A bit of snow (much less a blizzard) can cause systemwide disruptions, so if you’re scheduled to travel this weekend you’ll want to take precautions.
Delays are starting to pile up, and many airlines have preemptively canceled flights for tomorrow. At the time of this writing there are over 2,000 canceled flights, and many delayed flights between today and tomorrow. A few examples:
- JFK: 61 flights canceled on the 8th, 359 flights canceled on the 9th
- Newark: 59 flights canceled on the 8th, 271 flights canceled on the 9th
- LaGuardia: 46 flights canceled on the 8th, 281 flights canceled on the 9th
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:
Ultimately though, if you’re flying to or through the Northeast today or tomorrow you want to stay on top of the situation, and get in touch with your airline ASAP.
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
If 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.
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, where I understand the weather is nice today, or even just Canadian numbers can get you through faster.
- Air Canada international reservations
- American Airlines international reservations
- Delta Air Lines international reservations
- JetBlue international reservations
- United international reservations
- Virgin America international reservations
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
- Southwest Spanish line: 1-800-VAMONOS
- 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.
I’m supposed to by flying to New York this evening, so I’ll be following my own advice.
As it gets closer I’ll be watching both my flight and the inbound flight to make sure things are on time. I’ve also contacted my airline and asked them to protect me on a flight tomorrow as a backup. Hopefully it doesn’t go much longer than that, as we have some fun plans in the city, but this isn’t really a situation I can control.
The best thing to do is pay attention, and be as proactive as you can.
Anyone else flying to the Northeast? What’s your plan?