The severe winter storm that paralyzed Thanksgiving holiday air travel in the Northeast and throughout the US forced the cancellation of thousands of flights nationwide and left passengers delayed or stranded at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark and other airports.
Here are your rights if your flight has been cancelled or delayed – more than 1,100 were cancelled at the three NYC are airports alone..
This advice from the AAA also applies to travelers in and out of New York City, nearby Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington Dulles and Washington National, and all travelers affected by the storm.
If you haven’t already done so, sign up for your airline’s flight status alert service on your mobile device, and check flight status before leaving home.
Depending on the airline, you’ll get emails or text messages – or both. The same systems also tell you which baggage carousel to find your luggage.
It beats making multiple calls and get you information faster than waiting on hold for an airline representative.
Most airlines waive change fees due to severe weather, although they are not required to do so. Be sure to ask your alrline if re-booking fees are being waived.
Check in online
Confirm your reservation online as soon as the 24-hour advance confirmation booking kicks in.Whether your flight is your original itinerary or rebooked,
Arrive early for your flight
Allow extra time to get to the airport due to extra post-storm traffic.
Also, getting there earlier than usual can help guarantee your seat has not been given away to another delayed passenger who is anxious to get where they are going.
Be prepared for down time in airports
Carry snacks and entertainment for both adults and children, but, remember to get drinks after clearing security checkpoints due to TSA restrictions.
- I always carry a refillable water bottle to refill after passing through the TSA line. Seriously, who wants to pay $2 more or less for water?
- I always carry a homemade trail mix of dried fruit and nuts, and a chocolate bar or two.
Remember that you are not the only delayed, tired and frustrated traveler. You have lots of company, and a backlog of weather-related challenges takes time to correct.
“Bullying” airline personnel is not recommended. Kindness and understanding will take you much farther.
Remember that airline employees are just as exhausted and frustrated as you are.
Carrying a fully charged phone or tables helps ensure you receive any important airline alerts or e-mails.
It’s also a good idea to have a fully-charged portable battery pack, too, since outlets for recharging will most likely be in use by other low-power travelers. And we’ve all heard about the hacking and malware danger of plugging into public outlets at airports.
Consider an alternate destination
If your trip was cancelled, you may find some flexibility with travel vendors with regard to when and even where you go.
Those who were going for a ski vacation out west could be more in the mood for the beach as a cure for blizzard induced cabin fever. This works if you are starting your trip, instead of finishing it, since if you are delayed getting home from a ski vacation, you won’t have clothes packed for a Caribbean vacation.
Consider alternative transportation
If your flight is canceled, and you cannot be rebooked for several days, ask for a refund and take alternate transportation, such as Amtrak, or even a rental car.
Show me the money
You are entitled to cash compensation for EU flight delays if you are bumped from an overbooked flight, if your flight is cancelled or delayed, including by mechanical issues.
If you are on an international trip the airline is required to use all practical means to avoid or mitigate delay, or pay delay compensation.
According to the New York Times, and under the Montreal Convention Article 19, that payback can be up to $5,000.
However, the rules are tricky.
If your flight originated in the EU, it is covered. But if your disputed flight, even on an airline based in the EU, was from the US to Europe, is is not covered.
File a complaint
When all else fails, file a complaint with the DOT at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint
If your complaint involves an EU carrier, such as Air France, Lufthansa or Alitalia, contact FlightRight, an EU-based consumer rights group that will fight for compensation on your behalf, for a fee, of course.
Evelyn Kanter is a native New Yorker who has written for the NY Times, NY Daily News, NY Post, New York Magazine, and is a former on-air consumer reporter for WCBS Newsradio 88 and WABC-TV Eyewitness News.
I’m also the author of several NYC guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.