A fabulous weekend getaway to Napa could have turned sour when Hurricane Sandy forced most of our party’s outgoing flights back to the East Coast to be canceled. Nothing is a bigger buzzkill than airline problems.
But the Philly women on the trip – my sister and several of her friends who work for Fortune 500 companies – were all savvy road warriors. Not only did they manage to rebook flights out of San Francisco that minimized their time stranded on the West Coast, they were able to get concessions from the airlines that fit their agenda. I was proud and a little awed by them all. Here’s how they did it.
1. Think ahead. My sister’s friend Amanda had a tough travel week planned. Not only was she supposed to fly from San Francisco back to Philadelphia, she had been scheduled for a meeting in Miami on Tuesday. Likewise, my sister had a planned four-day weekend on Sanibel Island later in the week. Both women asked the airlines if they could fly to Florida early and bypass the East Coast Corridor completely, sparing themselves unnecessary stress.
2. Know the timetable. My sister flies US Airways so often that she’s practically memorized the timetable. She knew exactly what r0utes and flights to ask for – and insisted on getting them, even when the service desk wanted to give her alternatives. I used the SkySkanner app on my phone to help another woman plot her route so she could ask for specific availability. When chaos at the airport strikes, a little knowledge is a great thing.
3. See if your company can help. Amanda had booked her flight to Miami through her company’s travel agent. So when getting to her Tuesday meeting was threatened, the vendor was able to get her what she needed. Not every company has a dedicated travel arm anymore. But if you do have one, a hurricane or winter storm is the time to use it.
4. Use your status. All of us on the trip had varying degrees of status with the airlines. My sister called the US Air Premier Line and lucked out with a dynamite representative who made it her mission to get her what she needed. Although United didn’t seem to have a dedicated line for Silver level members, Seema went to the Premier line at the San Francisco airport, changing in her flight in a matter of minutes (while other people with canceled flights were stuck in lengthy customer service lines).
5. Go elsewhere. After spending beaucoup bucks in Napa, Seema didn’t relish paying for hotel rooms in pricey San Francisco. So she asked United to route her through Chicago, where she could crash with her brother. Considering that she wouldn’t be back in Philly until Thursday, this was a money-saving move that carried the added bonus of being able to see her niece in her first Halloween costume.
6. Always carry laptops and chargers. The only stress that all three women had was that none of them had brought their work computers with them. My sister also forgot her Blackberry charger, which meant she had to buy another one at the airport. As we get into the winter storm season, travelers should remind themselves to bring all the electronics that they might need to get their work done, wherever they might be stranded.
7. Don’t panic. What impressed me the most about seeing these six-figure women at work was their ability to handle change under pressure. Instead of freaking out, they calmly hit the phones and told the airlines what they needed to happen. It reminded me that when the chips are down, we should do as the English do – keep calm and carry on.
If you have any other tips to add, please add them in the comments!