What to Do when Bad Weather Cancels your Flight
I hate getting stuck at the airport because of bad weather. Whether there's a flight delay or cancellation, I know that my travel experience will get worse. And the unfortunate thing about it is there is not much that you can do about it. The lines are long and slow and by the time you get to the counter, you might not even have the option of getting to where you are going. Try to avoid the long lines if possible by getting to the airport as early as possible during a bad weather day. If you have an afternoon departure time, come in the morning and see if you can get on an earlier flight. Normally, the airline shouldn't charge you during a bad weather day for changes but if they insist on a same day change fee or move up fee, consider that it might be worth the money.
If you are at the airport and see delays and cancellations occuring, the first thing you want to do is get in line in front of the special services desk or the gate counter so that the agent can rebook you on the next available flight. Keep in mind that when the flight delays and cancellations are due to weather, the airline does not have to put you on another airline to get you home. The logic behind this is that the airline has no control over weather, so they should not lose the money paid them because the weather caused the delay or cancellation. It is also because of this logic that the airline will not pay for your hotel if you get stuck at the airport. Since the weather is not something that they can control, they don't have to pay for hotel lodging if you get stuck at the airport overnight. If you are rebooked on another airline, consider yourself lucky because it is your original airline that chose to do that for you; it is not obligated to do that for you.
While you are waiting on line, call the 800 number for your airline. The sooner you call, the more likely the chance that you can get on the next available flight to take you home. If you bought your ticket from a travel agent, you have an extra resource from passengers who bought their ticket online. Call your travel agent and see if they can put you on the next available flight. Once you are put on the next available flight, confirm with the agent over the phone that your ticket has been adjusted, exchanged or reissued. By the time you get to the agent at the special services counter, all they need to do is check you in and get your boarding pass. In fact, if there are kiosks available, ask the person behind you to save your spot and see if you can check in at the kiosk. If you are successful in getting a boarding pass, be polite and let the person know that he or she doesn't have to hold your place any more.
If you aren't able to get through the phone maze and got to the counter first, have your boarding pass ready so that you can give it to the agent and they can advise you how to get to your destination. Be nice and don't take your frustration out on these agents. It's not their fault about the delays and they are trying to help you.
If you can spring for a day pass at your airline's lounge, it might be worthwhile. There are agents inside the lounge that can help rebook you and have shorter lines. In addition, the lounge usually has free refreshments and snacks which can help tide you over until your flight boards. It's not a bad way to spend the time before boarding.
Be flexible about your options. If the only non-stop flights available are tomorrow, see if they are able to get you closer to your destination thorugh a connection. Some passengers may be lucky enough to be close to more than one airport; ask the agent if you can be re-routed to the alternate airport. So for example, if your destination is Fort Lauderdale, but Miami airport is a good alternative for you, ask the agent if their are seats available on the alternate airport. If the only way to get to your destination is through a connection, it might make sense to take the flight to the connection airport and spend the night there and take the final flight the following day. That way you are that much closer to your destination.
Once you have your new itinerary, sign up for your airline's flight notification system if there is a system available. It will go a long way towards helping your stay informed about your flight.
Pay attention to announcements. During bad weather, all departures are estimated and it would not be unusual for the airline to swap planes resulting in your plane boarding earlier than you expected. There could also be gate change announcements. Do not hesitate to go up to the agent if there is a change in the electronic board and a new flight number and destination is posted. Don't zone out because you may miss your flight.
If you have an important meeting that you are supposed to get to, make alternate arrangements. It's always a good idea to have a contingency plan.
Lastly, patience is a virtue. It's not anyone's fault that the flights are delayed or cancelled because of weather. Make sure that you are comfortable, get something to eat way before you are supposed to board, and spend your time at your gate area chilling out.
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