Having grown up in Northern Finland, where it is usually VERY cold and snowy during the winter time, it never ceases to amaze me how ill-prepared the US airlines and airports are for cold weather and snow.
Many US travelers have had their flights canceled and travel plans interrupted. I have been watching some travel commentary on my friends’ Facebook updates about being delayed and rerouted.
Bloomberg Businessweek has a piece about this on their website (access here).
Here’s one question I received this week from a LoyaltyLobby reader:
We had a flight scheduled for my wife and I to fly from RDU to EYW this morning (February 13) at 7 AM that was booked a couple months ago. This flight was canceled on Tuesday evening due to a poor weather forecast.
I then called in and they said they couldn’t get us out of Raleigh to Key West on the same day but one of us could fly out on Thursday afternoon and another on Friday afternoon. We had 5 nights at the Sheraton booked with points and we could not extend our stay with them past the 19th though as they had no vacancies then. Since I felt I had no choice, I accepted the AA agents request so my wife was scheduled for Thursday afternoon on AA and they put me on a Friday flight on US Airways.
Of course, then they canceled my wife’s flight for this afternoon and told me after I called them that no airlines had any flights from RDU to EYW until Sunday at best. I then got them to cancel our flights and they said they would reimburse us for the 2 tickets. How do other people seem to get their seats reserved under these conditions ? Any advice would be appreciated for future situations like this.
Here’s my advice.
If you have bad weather coming up and the airline has issued a travel waiver, try to beat the storm and get there maybe a day or two early.
Use services such as Expertflyer (or even Expedia) to find space on flights between your origin and destination airports. Your airline may book you on other airline to get to your final destination (even when they don’t have to due to weather). Usually, the employees at the airport are more empowered to move you to other airlines.
Think outside of the box. In this instance, you could have tried to find availability to any of the Southern Florida airports such as West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Miami, and then just rented a car one-way. I believe that there are some options getting to Key West using a ferry from Western Florida as well.
There isn’t a lot that you can do once the airline has canceled the flights and you (with millions of others) are trying to reach the airline by phone to make alternate arrangements.
Sometimes, these are better handled at airports, where the employees just want to get you on your way. Even then, it helps if you can suggest alternate flights that have availability, as they often try to keep you on their own or partner metal.