A storm has dumped massive amounts of rain and snow along the Eastern Seaboard today, leading to over 500 cancelled flights and endangering the Thanksgiving travel plans of many. But even at this evening hour, you can still better position yourself to get home in time for the turkey by following these three steps–
1. If your flight is delayed, try to rebook yourself online or using your airline’s mobile app first. Airline websites and mobile apps have become far more user-friendly and powerful over the last year. If you find your travel plans delayed, first visit your airline’s website or mobile app and see if you have been automatically rebooked on an alternate flight or can choose a revised travel plan that suit your needs. This technology is not perfect, but I have increasingly relied on it over in-person or telephone changes the last year and it is always the place to start when your travel plans are interrupted.
2. If you are already at an airport and your flight is delayed or cancelled, get into your airline’s lounge. I’ve flown through enough delays to know that when they hit, customer service lines snake for hundreds of yards down concourses and call centers become instantly clogged. The one oasis, even during a storm, is an airline’s lounge. If your airline has a lounge, find a way to get inside it, even if you have to pay for a one-time pass. Not only will you have snacks and drinks to wait out the delay, but you’ll have access to agents to help get you home without the long line or endless hold music. There is nothing worse than finding seats available on an alternate flight only to see them booked up as you wait on hold or in line for an agent.
3. Find another option yourself instead of waiting for the airline to do it for you. Anything is possible during irregular operations like a heavy storm. Armed with the right information, you can score a seat on a direct flight on another airline or perhaps even a first class seat on your own airline if that is the only thing available. Even in storms, airlines will try to keep passengers on their own metal but that often means forced overnights or extra connections, which put travel plans further at risk or make them moot. Use tools like Expert Flyer to check for space to your destination and do not be afraid to ask to be placed on another carrier or different cabin of service. The worst you can be told is no (and likely will be at first), but persistence and being patient, calm, and courteous works wonders, especially at airports. Be sure to re-check for space often if you are trying to get on a specific flight. In the frenzy of massive storms, seats open up regularly (and are swooped up almost instantly) on many fully booked flights.
I hope you are able to get home for Thanksgiving!