USA Today posted an ominous headline today: “Winter Storm: Hundreds of Flights Axed,” reporting that over 500 flights have been canceled across the midwest and northeast today (thank you, Mother Winter).
One of the frustrations of established transportation options is the lack of scheduling control. Recently a friend was flying to visit for a weekend. They were leaving Cincinnati yet their flight was delayed due to a weather issue hundreds of miles away in Baltimore, MD. As a result, their flight was delayed for hours. By the time their flight finally arrived, they could have driven the 7 hour trip in less time than it took to drive to the airport, park remotely, fight through TSA – all to sit and wait for hours in the terminal.
Flight cancelations are growing this time of year, so here are some tips on what not to do when your flight is canceled:
1.) Sit and wait. As soon as you know the flight is canceled, contact your airline’s support team. The first option is to head right to the ticket counter, however the other 99 people on your canceled flight are lining up ahead of you. Some airlines, such as Delta, have placed support kiosks in the terminal area. If these are open, hop in immediately to get automated help. Your last option should be to call the 800 number for the airline. On major weather delay days the phone lines are flooded with frustrated travelers. Unless you enjoy elevator music, this can elevate your travel stress.
2.) Accept the first option the airline offers as the only option. As airlines continue to grow, they increasingly see passengers as anonymous data points, and less as an individual trying to reach their destination on time. If your flight is canceled and your airline auto-rebooks you on another flight, there may be another alternative for you. If you are in a major metro area you may be able to find a better flight out of a nearby airport or airline. If you have to change airports, you are not alone – try arranging a ride to split with your fellow stranded passengers.
3.) Panic. Although the airline system can be incredibly frustrating, it is also enormous. More than likely there will be a solution. After you find out the details of your canceled flight, explore the terminal on foot – but be wary of the $4 bottle of water, overpriced iPhone accessories and $10 brew in the airport lounge.
4.) Not ask for a travel discount. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky Meal vouchers, hotel voucher, future travel credit. Travel discounts are growing, but only when you ask.
Travel is meant to be an enjoyable experience, no matter how you move. Whether you are flying or driving to your destination – expect the best, but always plan for bumps in the road.