A winter storm headed toward the east coast could create a travel mess. What should you be prepared for before you head to the airport?
USA Today travel reporter, Ben Mutzabaugh shares what happens when your flight is canceled, or delayed.
"The airline only has to put the passenger on the next flight that has open seats. That's really their only obligation, and during the holidays, the next available flight could be days away depending on the scope of the disruption," said Mutzabaugh.
If your flight is canceled and you decide not to try and find a seat on another flight, you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your itinerary.
The airline is not obligated to provide you with other compensation, lodging, or food for delays, or cancellations. If the delay is the airline's fault, it might compensate you in one of those areas. Mutzabaugh said they almost never compensate if the event is weather, which can be a broader term than you think.
"It may be sunny in North Carolina, when a flight from Greensboro to Atlanta is canceled. But the plane (or crew) scheduled to fly that flight may have gotten stranded in New York, Dallas, Chicago, etc. Meaning, the "weather" there lead to the cancellation in GSO," said Mutzabaugh.
Mutzabaugh offers these ways you can prepare for any flight during weather event:
- Sign up for flight alerts with your airline. The earlier you know there's a problem, the more time you have to find other alternatives.
- If your flight's canceled, go get in line - but also call the airlines 800 number from your cell or payphone. You can be rebooked over the phone, and - sometimes - that ends up being faster than waiting in line.
- Flexibility helps. If you're flight to LaGuardia is canceled, ask if there's a flight to Newark or JFK or another nearby airport. It may be inconvenient, but it may be less of an inconvenience than not making it at all. Ditto for return. Stuck in Chicago? A flight to GSO might be canceled, but maybe there's a flight to CLT or RDU. As long as you can arrange transportation, it may trump being stuck on the road.
- Flexibility (2): Pay attention to the weather, and if you see it's going to be bad ... check your airline's website to see if they have a flexible rebooking policy. They often do in poor weather. In a nutshell, the waivers allow fliers ticketed to CERTAIN airports to make 1 change to their itinerary with no penalty. So, if you can come back a day or two later - or earlier - it may be worth changing your ticket to move your travel away from when the storm is expected to be worst.
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