Blizzard nightmare: Rebooking Travels in Winter Weather

by Chris on December 26, 2010

Stuck in the NYC blizzard? Some tips for rebooking when snow disrupts your travel.

Blizzard, NYC

Watching the blizzards overcome the East Coast this holiday season reminds me of last year’s winter, when my husband spent more than 2 hours on the phone with US Air trying to rebook his flight from Florida back to Washington DC after snow ruined his travel.

So I feel for reader Dan, who wrote: “Blizzard in the New England area and I have been on hold with US Air for 217 minutes so far. I have had 2 rebookings and 2 canceled flights and still on the ground.. Fortunately I am at my home on hold so that is a bonus.”

A few quick tips for those in the same boat:

1. Stay calm. Yes, the delays are frustrating. But yelling at the reservation agent will get you nowhere. Being rational and nice during a time when everyone else is losing their cool will definitely make the agents more likely to go the extra mile on your behalf.

2. Don’t try to go to the airport. Dan has the right idea. With lines at the airport at all-time highs, you are just as likely to get rebooking help from an agent over the phone than in person – and you’ll be a lot more comfortable too.

3. If you have airline status, invoke it. As unfair as it seems, not all passengers are created equal. If you’ve earned preferred status on an airline or alliance, this is the time to ask for special treatment – nicely, of course.

4. Ask for a refund. If you can figure out another way to get to your destination, call the airline and ask for a refund. Blizzards and other weather-related Acts of God are usually one of the few times that an airline will issue you a refund (check your contract of carriage to make sure, as different airlines’ policies vary).

5. Next time, plan ahead. If you see a monster storm bearing down on your region, try to get out a few days early. It may suck to cut your holiday short, but people who left the East Coast on Christmas Day are already home.

For those of you visiting family or friends over the holidays, how did you cope with travels during the blizzard?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Hayes December 27, 2010 at 3:15 am

Good tips. Would only add suggest that you think creatively – alternative airports, bus, train, car…. this is not a time to be picky.

And I’d like to re-iterate, the people who you are dealing with – gate agents, phone representative s – DID NOT make the decision not to reroute your flight/create a blizzard/etc. Never. These people are too busy in the details to have made a bad call. So, give them a break. They’re having a bad day too.

The whole flying experience is cyclical. So stop the cycle and smile when a rep or agent is helpful. Maybe they’ll pass it along.

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J.D. Ricks January 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm

We flew to Paris on Christmas Day. We had no problems other than DELTA/AIRFRANCE re-booked us an hour later on a different flight but they let us know a couple of days in advance and it actually worked out better for us. Our flight was charmed but friends of ours, flying the next day arrived in Paris without luggage. It took 4 days before they had all of thiers. Paris was freezing, literally, and they lacked adequate warm clothing. Lesson to be learned? Always pack a full back-up in your carry-on.

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Chris January 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm

J.D. – Good tip, and one I often forget. At the very least, I wear some layers on the plane that can be reused in an emergency.

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Ann-Kathrin Marsha March 23, 2011 at 8:14 am

My mom wanted to come over for Christmas last year. She booked a flight from Germany to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Burlington, VT. First she couldn’t leave Germany because they shut down the Airport. She had to wait to days there. Then she finally got a flight to Philadelphia and couldn’t go anywhere from there because of the horrible weather condition. So she was stuck to days there. She finally made it to Burlington, two days after Christmas, which left her with three more days of vacation. She spend over a thousand euros to fly from Germany to the US to stay three days. What do we learn from that? The weather in winter is too unpredictable. You should choose to fly in summer.

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Chris March 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm

@Ann-Katrin – Wow, what an ordeal! Unfortunately, sometimes you have to fly during the winter here. I do try to avoid flying on the holidays, though – too many people for me. Thanks for commenting!

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