Well, as I am sure you have seen on the news over these past few weeks the airports have been closed, flights canceled, delayed and many passengers were stranded. The snow and freezing canceled over 20,000 flights. Jet Blue actually closed services at 4 airports for over 17 hours, canceling over 1800 flights. All of this means passengers were stranded and need to be rescheduled or even worse, having to cancel their travel plans all together.
So what do you do when your flight is canceled and how do you prepare for this situation in the future?
1. Call your Travel Agent
This is one of the big reasons to use an agent. We are here to be your advocate and to help fix problems when they arise. As well, we can advise on the best plan of action. If I know I have clients traveling I am watching the weather to try to avoid you being stuck at the airport.
2. Get in Line and on the Phone
If you are already at the airport when your flight is canceled, then get in line at your gate or go to the help desk. At the same time you should be on your phone to the airline. This way you have 2 options to fix your situation.
3. Get Online to Rebook
If you flight is canceled you can try to rebook through the airline’s website. Once you are rebooked you can go out to the airport check-in kiosk and print a new boarding pass. If your bags are already checked in make sure you check with an agent as well to get your bags re-routed.
4. Twitter and Facebook
Follow and Like the airline, then you can see any updates or information that the airline might be posting. As well, make sure to tweet or post about your situation and make sure to add a # with the airlines name in the post. Airlines are really following social media these days and you may get a response. You can even send the airline a direct message via Twitter.
5. Know Your Rights
Airlines are not obligated to compensate you for canceled domestic flights. There is Rule 240 which states that for non-weather related cancelations or delays the airline must put you on the next available flight, either on their airline or a competitor. If it is a weather cancelation then the airline must still put you on the next flight, however they do NOT have to put you on a competitor airline.
6. Buy Travel Insurance
I think when traveling with families and small children it is ALWAYS a good idea to buy travel insurance. As well, if you are going to be flying in the winter or taking a cruise during hurricane season then I really think it is worth the cost. In the end, spending a few $100 can save you $1000′s.
7. Avoid Layovers and Connecting Flights
I realize this is not always possible, but if you are traveling in the winter, it is especially a good idea. You don’t want to get on your first flight then be stuck at the connecting airport, especially since you will have NO baggage. If you do have to have a connecting flight in the winter, then try to route yourself through a southern airport to help avoid the bad weather.
8. Know Your Phone Numbers
Make sure to have easy access to the phone numbers for the airline, travel agent, hotel, etc. I keep a list in the notes section of my smart phone. This is really important if you are somewhere and there is no Wi-Fi to be able to look up the numbers.
9. Make a Change Before you are canceled
During this recent storm many of the airlines allowed passengers to rebook in advance with no additional fees as long as they were traveling on listed dates or through specific airports. Check the airlines website for dates and information. As well, if you do not have any flexibility in your travel dates the airline might let you cancel your flight and receive a refund.
10. Get a New E-ticket number
If you have been rebooked on a new flight or different airline, make sure you get a new E-ticket number along with your boarding pass. This will make sure you have a flight and don’t get stuck.
11. Sign Up for Flight Notifications
Make sure to sign up to be notified for any and all flight changes, delays, gate changes or updates. These services are fast and up to date.
12. Get a Hotel Room ASAP
If you’re canceled flight means you have to stay the night make sure to get a room booked ASAP. Don’t wait for the airline to get you a voucher or book you a room. Most likely you are the not the only person needing a room, so don’t get stuck sleeping at the airport. Of course, first call your travel agent; if you did not use an agent then a great app is Hotel Tonight. But, you can also try Kayak or Hotels.com
13. Be Prepared
Make sure you are loaded up with movies, books, music and more. When traveling with children it is always a good idea to have extra diapers, formula, food, etc. Also, if you have to check your bags make sure to bring a carry-on with extra clothes, medication and anything you will need. If you don’t have toiletries don’t worry, most hotels have extra toothbrush, toothpaste, combs etc. that you can get from the front desk.
14. BE PATIENT
It can be hard when you are stuck in the middle of the situation, but it will serve you well. Just know that everyone is doing his or her best to accommodate everyone. As well, being nice and polite to the airline agent will certainly get you help faster than being nasty.
Here is to safe travels and being prepared.
Kimberly Milnes is a mother of 2 boys and owner of Adventures By Kim. She is a Family Travel Expert and professional sharing family travel tips, and information as well as helping families’ plan amazing and hassle free family vacations. Please feel free to contact her at [email protected] or www.adventuresbykim.com.