How To Survive Winter Air Travel
Tips For Managing Airline Delays & Cancellations
Planning to travel during the winter can be tricky with potential weather events always looming in the back of your mind. Even if you live in a warm climate and are heading to a sunny destination, the plane taking you there might be coming from somewhere colder. So planning ahead for delays and cancellations over the winter months is a must.
In general, airlines do not provide compensation if the flight is delayed or canceled due to a major weather event. This includes hotel and food vouchers as well as refunds on your ticket. If the cancelation is due to an event outside of the airline’s control, you are most likely on your own. Here are some tips to help you plan ahead as well as manage a weather-related cancelation if it does happen.
Travel Insurance: Most airlines offer optional travel insurance when you purchase your ticket, but weather related events might not be covered. Read the fine print or call customer service to be fully aware of the airline’s policies.
Gather Information: Have the customer service number for your airline saved in your phone for easy access. Also make note of the contact information at your destination—hotel, car service, family members, etc.
Allow Extra Time: Allow even more extra time for everything, including parking, checking in at the airport, security lines, and especially connections. Airports will be busy with holiday and vacation travelers, and airplanes may need to be de-iced.
Flight Status: Check, double check, and triple check your flight status. When completing your information during the ticket purchasing process, fill in your email address and mobile number to receive up to the second updates on delays and cancellations. Download your airline’s mobile app ahead of time and use services like FlightAware to check flight status before leaving for the airport.
Cruising?: If you are going on a cruise over the winter months, plan to get to your destination a full 24 hour before the ship departs and stay in the port city overnight.
Don’t Stand In Line: As soon as you find out that your flight is cancelled, don’t run to the customer service desk with the rest of the passengers. Take a seat, pull up the airline phone number you stored in your phone (see above), and call the airline’s customer service. You’ll likely get faster and better customer service from an agent over the phone than one with 100+ angry customers at their desk!
Options: The options in the event of a cancellation really vary by airline, and this is where your previous research comes in handy. Some airlines will waive change fees and allow flights to be rebooked within a week from the original flight, or even let you use the full value of your ticket to book a flight to a different destination. Refunds and partial refunds can be tricky, and only occasionally offered if the weather is really bad and flight travel is severely restricted to and from most destinations.
Connecting Flights: If you are in an airport for a connecting flight, check with airline staff to see if there is specific counter for connecting passengers. Special consideration may be given to customers in transit, especially if the weather event was unknown at the beginning of your journey.
Final Destination: Contact the appropriate parties at your final destination as soon as you are aware of the cancellation. If you can get in touch with the hotel early enough, you might be able to avoid a cancellation fee on your missed nights reservation, and even rebook an extra night.