Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Let's Talk Canceled Flights

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Mine, very uplifting and spiritual.
So, who has ever had a flight canceled?  I have had a flight delayed, but I don't recall one being canceled.  My husband, on the other hand, has.  Last year when he was trying to get to Jacksonville, Florida for a conference, his flight was not only canceled once, but TWICE!
I thought I'd share some tips about what to do when bad weather strikes.  I found these in an article on Smarter Travel by Anne Banas.

Bad weather is considered an "act of God" and therefor one basic thing you are entitled to is a refund--no free hotel stays, no transportation, and no food vouchers (thought some airlines might offer these other options at its discretion).
Weather can wreck havoc on travel, but there are some essential tips that will help minimize stress and allow you to take matters into your own hands when your flight is canceled.

Before you go:
1.Reconfirm your flight.  It may be clear where you are, but not necessarily where you are headed.
2. Sign up for alerts.  Most airlines and online travel agencies offer cancellations alerts via email or text.  However, if a big storm is in the forecast, take action and call the airline direct.
3.  Pack smartly.  Keep essential items, including medications, cell phones and chargers, a change of clothes, and toiletries in your carry-on.  It is also a good idea to pack some food, since the options might be limited.

1.  Try all booking avenues. Wait in the customer service line (if at the airport), stay on the phone until you get through to an airline representative, get online, or use social media (some airlines will respond to direct messages on Twitter).  Always program  the phone numbers of all your travel providers into your phone before you leave for the airport.
2. Contact other travel sites.  Try contacting third-party providers, such as the online travel agency you used to book your reservation.
3. Contact all other travel providers. Remember that your hotel, car rental and other reservations will also be affected by a canceled flight.  Don't forget to contact them as soon as possible.
4.  Get a cash refund.  Try to get a cash refund if you decide not to re book within the waiver time frame.  Credits and vouchers for a later date might be hard to use due to hefty restrictions.  If you purchased a trip cancellation insurance policy, see what you can get reimbursed for.

Stuck at the airport
1.  Look for a hotel.  Get online and look for hotels with last-minute availability, or download a last-minute hotel booking app such as HotelTonight or Priceline's Tonight-Only to you phone.  Remember others who are stranded might also be looking for a hotel room.
2. Be polite and ask for help.  While you are not entitled to receive things like food vouchers and other perks, it doesn't hurt to ask.  Just remember to be polite and don't make any demands.  Airline agents will likely be stressed as well, and they will be more likely to help you if you treat them with respect.

I hope these tips are helpful.  Let me know what you think and if you have any other ideas that have worked for you when you've experienced a canceled flight.

Happy travels.

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