Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed this past week as a winter storm blanketed the Midwest.
Weather-related flight disruptions fall under a completely different purview than other flight cancellations. Federal regulations don’t require airlines to compensate passengers for delays and cancellations of any kind, though it’s common to receive meal and hotel vouchers for mechanical or other airline-related flight disturbances. Such is not the case when it comes to the inconvenient truth of increasingly extreme weather events.
We rummaged the web for the best advice on weathering winter storm flight cancellations. Here’s what we found:
Pack for the Worst Case Scenario
Smart packing is your best defense for avoiding uncomfortable airport layovers. If you have no choice but to risk getting stuck in an airport during a winter storm, consider downsizing your luggage so that you have everything you may need with you at all times—yoga pants, tube socks, toothbrush, hoodie, aromatherapy neck pillow, travel doc organizer for boarding passes and receipts in case you need them for reimbursement. Check.
Purchase Travel Insurance
This one is tricky because in order to receive trip reimbursement for flight cancellations and other nonrefundable fees, the weather interruption must be significant and unforeseen. There also tends to be a lot of exclusions. But if “significant and unforeseen” does apply to you, this would be a good option to have ahead of time.
If You’re Stuck in the Airport
Consider paying the $50 fee (on average for a day pass) to pass time comfortably in an airport lounge. Here, you’ll find WiFi access, complimentary beverages and snacks, and a less hectic and more comfortable place to rejuvenate, even if only for the day. So eat, drink and be merry while checking the AirHelp app to see if you’re eligible to receive compensation for your cancellation or delay.
Communicate, Negotiate & Act Quickly
Some airlines will waive flight change fees ahead of major forecasted winter storms. Have the appropriate phone number ready to go and check in with them at the first hint of trouble, particularly during a flight cancellation or if transferring in city that is expecting a winter storm. You may be able to switch to a non-stop flight or another airport altogether. But you can’t do any of that if you’re caller number 100. Staying in touch also means downloading airline apps and airline informational apps like Flightview ahead of traveling for real-time info. Flightstats.com is a good source for flight availability and with WorldMate or TripIt Pro you can rebook immediately.
Take the Convo to Social Media
Platforms like Twitter, where your complaints and concerns are out there for the whole world to see, may inspire a timelier customer service response. Find your carrier, send them a tweet and see what happens.
If You’re Stuck on the Tarmac
The Department of Transportation mandates that passengers must be allowed to use the restrooms and have access to food and water after two hours and be able to exit the aircraft after three hours. Know your rights.
Do you have any tips to add? Share with us in the comments section.