Coping with Winter Travel Delays

We've all seen the news broadcasts that talk about the hundreds or thousands of people who are stranded at the airport because of some sort of monster delay. This time of year, it's often winter weather and snowfall that cause a lot of airline delay or cancellation.
Winter Snow Causes Many Airport Delays and CancelationsWinter Snow Causes Many Airport Delays and Cancelations
So, how can you best cope with this sort of event? The first step to being able to adapt to a travel interruption is simply accepting that it can happen. Once you know that, the rest is just details. Of course, the details are important.
There are a few things that you can do in advance of your travel to help in this sort of situation. Check your airline's policies for dealing with delays and cancellations. Some airlines will allow you to change your tickets within certain guidelines, or they may even offer refunds.

It is important to understand that airlines are not required to compensate food or accommodations if there are weather-related delays. Also, seriously consider purchasing travel insurance. There are a number of companies out there that you can look into.

Travel insurance can cover certain non-refundable expenses
(like tickets, for example) or even accommodations and expenses until the planes start moving again. Make sure that you understand the situations that they cover and what exactly they pay for.

If your flight is cancelled, the first order of business is stay calm. Everybody is upset, the airline employees have nothing to do with the problem, and they are trying their best to work through the issue. You are more likely to get respect if you give respect. Besides, with everybody else acting up, you may just get lucky and the airline employees that you end up dealing with may take extra effort to help you if you're calm and controlled.

As soon as your flight is cancelled, have one person in your party get on the phone to the airline while someone else gets in line at the ticket counter to talk to the airline representative. By using this "divide and conquer" idea, you improve your chances of getting reservations on another flight or getting assistance to get where you need to go some other way.

Thanks to WDWFG Guest Author, Geordon VanTassle! Geordon is a disaster preparedness specialist who enjoys traveling to Walt Disney World with his wife and children.

Have you had your flight canceled, or been stranded at the airport? Leave us you best tips and advice in the comments and let us know how you handled it!

Trueblue63 wrote on Tue, 12/06/2011 - 12:51:

Trueblue63's picture

I would also use twitter and a FB page to reach out to the airlines, often the traditional resources get overwhelmed and the non-traditional function better.

JoAnn C wrote on Wed, 12/07/2011 - 02:36:

JoAnn C's picture

One tip is to check with the airline before leaving for the airport if the weather is bad. Another is to make sure you have your cell phone listed when purchasing your airline ticket(s).

I fly home for Christmas every year and have never had any issues with flights because of weather until last year. The day I was scheduled to fly back to CT, a blizzard hit the east coast. US Airways called me the morning of my flight to let me know the flight was canceled and they had already rebooked my flight for the next day. I just needed to call for the details. The next day on the way to the airport I got a call that my flight was delayed. By the time I got to the airport the flight was delayed further. My original flight was a direct flight which wasn't available the next day so I had to connect in Washington, DC. Because of the delays, I was going to miss my connecting flight. My options were stay in Pittsburgh and try to get on stand by the next day or fly to Washington DC, spend the night and have a confirmed seat the next day.

I opted to fly to Washington and stay the night. Since my flight wasn't until the afternoon, I took advantage of the situation and went sight seeing.

As Kristin mentions above airlines are not required to compensate you if the cancelation is weather related. However, they do work with local hotels for discounted hotel rates. I got the "stranded passenger" rate at a very nice hotel in Arlington VA for $79 that night.

Trueblue63 wrote on Wed, 12/07/2011 - 13:20:

Trueblue63's picture

I agree,and many will text you those messages now, which I find even more convenient.

Geordon wrote on Wed, 12/07/2011 - 20:15:

Geordon's picture

I haven't been stranded at an airport, yet, but I did end up "abandoned" when a flight was canceled. The airline called us just a few hours before we were scheduled to leave the resort that we were staying at, and we were left high and dry for the night. Some faith, trust and a little (lot!) pixie dust and we had a room for the night. Our luggage, however, had gone to the airport before us, so we were left with the shirts on our backs.

JoAnn, thanks for the tidbit about the "Stranded traveler" rate that you got. I wouldn't have thought to look into that.

That being said, I agree that the airline that we travel with is pretty good about proactive notification if things go sideways.

Another thing that might be helpful is seeing if your airline has a smart phone app. You can get lots of good information that way, too. United Airlines' app lets you enter your trip itinerary number and it gives you info about your specific flight.

Thanks for reading! Look for part 2 coming soon.

daryl dd wrote on Sun, 12/11/2011 - 02:37:

daryl dd's picture

My wife and myself have made 4 round trip drives to WDW from SW Ontario Canada in the past 2 years. I really can't justify flying due to the expense and the hassles. It only costs about $500.00 return in fuel; that's only because we have an SUV...and we get to see the beautiful scenery across America!!!! The mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky are just breathtaking...and we've met so many nice people on our trips.
Anyone thinking about the driving option should check out Dave Hunter's "Along I-75" series of books...if you're going that way to Florida that is. It lists all the highway exits, stores, restaurant, motels....and goes into great detail about historical sights and must sees along the way.
It is a 22-24 hour marathon of driving, but if you have a partner to pick up the slack, it's not so bad. Now if I can only get my wife to stop talking while i'm trying to take my shift sleeping!!?? (sorry hon!!)

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