Options when Flights are delayed or cancelled

Your Options When Facing Flight Delays And Cancellations
How can travelers be more proactive when anticipating travel problems? When can a travel agent save the day?

Just in time for yet another major weather storm to dump more than 20 inches of snow on most Midwest states and getting ready to wreak havoc yet again in much of the New England States, I thought it timely to discuss options that travel weary passengers should consider when facing such dilemmas. As a travel professional I try to remember the Boy Scout Moto “Be Prepared,” which is the key to success. My point being, that Mother Nature is not only delving out some pretty heavy stuff, but the Transportation system as we know it just stopped, and not just the airline system, but also the train system, and bus system. So as a traveler you want to be prepared for nothing to work as it should. Be prepared to be stuck. So then, How do you prepare for that?First, I always make sure I have a list of all of the airport hotels with the direct phone numbers on hand, so that when there’s a situation occuring like we just discussed I’m not going on the Web site. Those hotels are not going to throw the rates up on the Web site; they need to protect their rooms. I call the property directly. I’m calling them immediately and I’m getting my passengers into hotel rooms before even the airlines can. If it is just me travelling, then I am on the phone with a hotel while I’m heading towards the taxi, or shuttle stand outside. Sometimes even if it seems highly improbable that I am going to be able to get out, I merely grab a cab to ensure I am at the hotel or motel in mere minutes.What about all of those people who make a mad dash for the customer service counters? Forget About it!! Well, here’s the deal anyway. Let’s say I was one of those caught in a major shutdown of services. The last thing I want to do is wait in a line that stretches almost back to the gate area, because I’m not going anywhere. So get me out of the airport to a place where I can sleep.Besides, Why would you wait in a line of 150 people? at that rate you’re not going anywhere. Not only that, you’re now number 150. By the time you get to the customer service agent, all the hotel rooms are going to be gone. If you had the foresight to purchase travel insurance, you’re going to be reimbursed for the lodging expense. So for me, I get out of crowd, get with Plan B. I wouldn’t take the chance of being cavalier that “it’s the airlines responsibility to put me up”. When there are no rooms on their list to call, the list is over!! I’ve been there too. And here’s another tip. When flights are cancelled due to weather (acts of God) it is NOT the airlines legal responsibility to put you up at their expense. (Read the contract of carrage) While they generally do, its a courtesy gesture by the airlines, not a responsibility.

The very first step in making airline rebookings, is to become more “boy scout like”, and to make preparations while maintaining realistic expectations. Believe me, if they do manage to get you out on a flight later that night or before you even get to the hotel, don’t fret. You just tell the cabby to turn around. The hotel wont charge you a fee, since they have a waiting list like you wouldn’t believe to get into those rooms. So they won’t charge you a cancellation for the same day. You book that room. You wait. If your flight’s not happening, then you go right to that hotel room.

As a former airline employee I’m going to say something that is going to sound cynical, but it’s also practical. Anytime you’re flying anywhere, especially if a connecting flight is involved, you have to assume that nothing is going to work. You have to assume that you’re (or your luggage are) going to miss your connections.

Now, the airlines are somewhat suspect themselves, since many times they will claim that there is a legal connection time of 45 minutes between your arrival and next flight leaving. Connection Time is the walking time it takes you to go between those flights. If you are changing terminals as well as planes…. Who are they kidding? In Europe, it’s even worse. They may tell you that the legal connecting time on European flights going through Heathrow is three hours. (but your bags probably wont make such a short connection, Now if you look at the fine print, which nobody ever does, (I had to learn the hard way myself), that the legal connection time for your checked bags in some international hubs is four and a half hours. So the airline is going to book you on what they claim is a legal connection time and your bags never show up because they’re still stuck in London. So anytime there’s a connecting flight you need to be prepared for the worst! 

Here’s a tip where YOU can effect or reduce your chances of airlines mishaps, just by avoiding the 10 worst airports known for delayed and cancelled flights. Do you know what they are? (just put a note in the comments section below, and I’ll be sure to email the list to you) it’s also about the individual traveler and being travel savy when are where possible.

Helpful tip! While you can’t control the weather and you can’t control the airline. But you can control how you’ve packed. I really think it’s very important when you’re packing for your trip to just think ahead. Think, what would happen if I get stuck on a tarmac for 11 hours with say a 7-year-old child? Pack snacks. Make sure that your iPad is loaded with all the movies it can hold. Be sure it’s fully charged it before you get on the plane because you might be sitting there for hours, and you will certainly want to use it (if they let you).

I also always say if you’re going to check bags, and sometimes you have to (such as international flights), don’t put all your clothing items in one bag. Spread them out. If you have two bags, go half and half, because if one bag goes missing at least you have something to wear. Once again, preparation and packing can go along way and that is in your control. You might wish to check out my blog on Packing Like a Pro.

Then there’s rebooking. How do you get people back on flights when everybody else has reservations on flights leaving the next day, and the next day, and the next day? A thrifty traveler can sometimes be unlucky if they decided to go the cheap route and booked their travel themselves through an online Web site. There are great Web sites out there and I don’t fault them. But it’s best when you’ve booked through a reputable travel agency, you have the advantage of personal  relationships. Believe me, an airline, if they have to prioritize passengers, will prioritize passengers that are coming from companies that are bringing them millions of dollars in business over the one $250 fare that you’ve booked. It’s unfortunate, but true. So there’s a relationship there that’s important. If there was ever a time to have a travel agent book your vacation plans, and to have great travel protection coverage this is the time. Also be sure you are knowledgeable as to all of the service fees that go along with those cheap deal on-line booking services. They can add up very quickly especially when travelling as a family. It may not be cheaper at all. Look before you click!!

 People say: Why do I need travel agents? I could book it myself. Well, when you have a travel agent on your side you have the benefit of a live person with relationships with a live person. It is going to be more effective and they will get you out faster. It’s not just the leverage in terms of the relationship of the travel agency. You also have in your power to join every airline mileage program you can and every hotel program you can, so you can get to an elite status. If you’re a passenger that has a higher status, again, they are going to prioritize you in getting on the plane, or into that highly prized hotel or motel room. So take advantage of every possible opportunity. Even if you don’t fly that often just sign up; it’s free, and with some preferred membership programs, you acquire some level of status, immediately upon membership. Bear in mind that there is a system at play here, and it is an elaborate, and complex system that is very hierarchy (seniority driven) in nature. 

 Last but not least, is something I have done (and still do) for my own customers during freak weather situations, (and I do this for myself)–be counterintuitive. Take the map and throw it out the window. If you want to go from Los Angeles to Hawaii and flight is booked, then you’re not out of luck. How about going from Los Angeles to Phoenix to Hawaii. Or Los Angeles to Utah to Hawaii. This is something we call in the Travel Business “Zorro” booking, where you’re going from point A to point Z (all over the map) in no logical order whatsoever. Sometimes you have to Zorro book, but at least you’ll get there – even if you had to go six hours out of your way to get to your destination, you made it where others didn’t.

Once you have mastered the aforementioned process, then you are ready to graduate to an even more advanced process which is to consider using alternate airports. Think Providence instead of Boston. Think Oakland instead of San Francisco. For New York Trips an airport that many folks fly into frequently is Islip in Long Island instead of Kennedy and LaGuardia because Islip tends to stay open.  A lot of the smaller airports can and do remain open when larger ones close down, simply because they don’t have the same over demand as the larger airports do.

For more information on Options when Flights become delayed or cancelled, contact Mike via email mberryhill@cruiseholidays.com  . You can tweet (or follow) Mike at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike  . To “Join” our Travel Club go to  http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/  Mikes web site can be found at  www.mberryhill.cruiseholidays.com .  Follow this blog (or subscribe to it) at http://www.cruisewithmike.com  (or merely click on the subscribe button above to have daily delivery to your email). View all of Mikes uploaded Flickr Photo Galleries at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cruisewithmike/ . Mike also edits his own twice daily e-newspaper called “The Compass Headings” you can see (or subscribe to) it free! at http://paper.li/CruisewithMike

Please feel free to leave a comment below on this articles’ contents. We are always looking for Guest Contributors and Writers, as well as ideas or suggestions to expand and improve on our content! If you found the information helpful why not include (a tweet to followers) or (share a like) with your facebook friends, that they might benefit from the information as well. Thanks For Visiting, and please come back often to this daily Blog. – Mike

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About cruisewithmike

Mike is a Professional Cruise Wedding Planner, Wedding Officiant,and owner of CruisewithMike Wedding Planners. With over 20 years of experience in the Travel Industry, as an Independant Travel Consultant, Customer Service Agent, and a retired Va. Magistrate, and Clergy. Mike has a very unique perspective on Customer and Wedding Service Needs and strives to provide custom service that's "TOPS" Totally Outrageous Professional Service, with every customer he works with.
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4 Responses to Options when Flights are delayed or cancelled

  1. Teena Brogley says:

    Good.Info. Sometimes people’s tips dominate our activities. Merci!

  2. candichick says:

    Couldn’t say it better myself! Well done, showing the importance of using a TA I don’t understand why more people don’t use us for everything!

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