As a hurricane storms the United States during the height of the holiday travel season, flight delays and cancellations are growing, leaving travelers anxious and occasionally stranded.
Due to deicing operations and other weather-related concerns, flights are approximately two and a half hours late at various airports. Some airports, notably the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, were forced to postpone more than half of their outgoing flights on December 22, the day the Federal Aviation Administration predicted would be the holiday season’s biggest travel day. On December 23, more than 7,300 flights have been delayed and more than 5,100 are scheduled to be canceled.
Scott Keyes, the creator of Scott’s Cheap Flights, described today as “the worst day of the entire year for cancellations,” saying that 30 times as many flights are projected to be canceled as on an average day.
Here’s what you should do if you become stranded while trying to spend the holidays as a passenger.
How will I know if my flight is canceled?
If you are on your way to the airport or are already there, it may be unsettling to observe the wave of flight cancellations. The key to determining if your flight will depart is to examine the weather system-wide: Even if the skies are clear at your departure airport and at your destination airport, it may not be sufficient.
Instead, familiarize yourself with the weather at the airport where your airline is based. If a plane from that airport cannot reach yours, you will miss your flight.
As inclement weather interrupts airports and roadways throughout the holiday season, travelers are urged to take precautions.
Download a weather app and an airline operations app, then inquire with your airline about the tail number of the aircraft allocated to your flight. You may use the airline operations app to track that tail number and the weather app to observe what’s happening at that area. If something goes wrong, you may already be in the process of rebooking your flight.
Additionally, you can sign up for text alerts from your airline that will notify you of delays, cancellations, and other events.
When an airline is responsible for a flight’s delay or cancellation, the majority of airlines will provide compensation or amenities such as meals and lodging.
However, this does not apply when the airlines are not at fault, such as during terrible weather.
Can I switch flights?
At this time, it seems unlikely that air traffic will return to normal by Christmas morning, despite the fact that airlines are issuing complete storm waivers that allow passengers to rebook flights at a later date or receive a full refund without incurring any fees. Keyes expected that the effects of the delays and cancellations will be remedied within one week.
Instead, it may be preferable to accept the refund. Storm waivers can only be used during a limited rebooking window, so altering your flight may not be useful unless you are willing to postpone your holiday celebrations. Even if you are not provided a storm waiver, airlines are compelled to refund you if your flight is considerably canceled or delayed.
If you do decide to rebook, Keyes suggests taking a morning trip, as these are more likely to arrive on time and the plane carrying you to your destination will be at the airport. Additionally, nonstop flights are preferable than those with layovers. The key, though, is proactivity.
“Air travel is truly first-come, first-served,” Keyes explained. “If you see an empty seat, grab it… It may be gone in a few hours or days if you wait.”
What if I’m at the airport already?
Prepare to speak with customer support if you are already at the airport when your flight is canceled. You can wait in line to speak to an agent at the desk, but according to Keyes, the quickest way to reach an airline employee is by calling the airline’s international office.
“American, Delta, and United all have offices around the world,” added Keyes. “By calling any of these overseas offices, you can reach an agent who can help you rebook your flight, just as a U.S.-based agent can, but with a much shorter wait time than if you contacted the main U.S. hotline.”
You may also request to be booked on a different airline if that is the only option to reach your destination. Keyes stated that airlines rarely do this, but it never hurts to ask.
During the Christmas holiday weekend, a blizzard and subzero temperatures are anticipated.
What happens if my layover is delayed?
If you are going from one airport to another with a layover, you may become stranded in an airport distant from your home and final destination. Remember past advice from Keyes, such as dialing the international number and asking to be rebooked on a new airline.
Additionally, you should check your credit card: If you are unable to access your checked bag, many credit cards offer travel coverage that will cover expenses such as hotel accommodations or the cost of purchasing new clothing and toiletries. Using these characteristics will allow you to remain relatively comfortable when stuck.
What if I’m behind the wheel?
Due to the blizzard-like conditions across the United States and the increasing number of storm-related car accidents, many individuals have been urged to remain off the roads, so removing the option of renting a car and driving to your ultimate destination. This also means that a number of drivers are stranded in transit.
AAA suggests keeping a winter emergency kit that includes warm clothing, extra food and water, and a flashlight if you must travel during the winter. Maintain a minimum of half a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times, and keep your tires properly inflated.
Among further AAA driving guidelines for winter weather: On the roadways, you should drive slowly. If vision is too poor to continue driving, stop in a safe area and activate your hazard lights. Stay with your vehicle and tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or hang a rolled-up window to signal distress if you become stranded. Conserve gasoline, ensure that your exhaust pipe is not obstructed by snow, ice, or mud, and utilize all available supplies to stay warm.