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How to handle weather delays and flight cancellations

December 11, 2013
(Photo: Rich Pompetti / Flickr)
(Photo: Rich Pompetti / Flickr)

Here are Johnny Jet's go-to tips, websites and apps for all you need to know about weather delays and cancellations.

1. Research: I don’t leave home without knowing the weather where I am and where I’m going—including at layover airports. I use Weather.com and this handy traveler’s weather page I made that even includes the turbulence forecast.

If there’s a huge storm forcing mass cancellations, I check with the airline to see if they’ve adjusted their change policies due to the weather so I can rebook without a penalty and fly when there won’t be any hassles. Here’s a list of airline policies:

Air CanadaAir TranAlaskaAmerican AirlinesBritish AirwaysDeltaFrontierHawaiianJetBlueSouthwestSpiritSun CountryUnitedUS AirwaysVirgin AmericaWestJetEvery Airline Website and Phone Number

If there’s disruptive weather in any of the destinations relevant to me, I’ll then check the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) Flight Delay Information – Air Traffic Control System Command Center. It lists general airport conditions at the top 23 major airports in the U.S.

2. Sign up for flight notifications: Since the Air Traffic Control System Command Center is not flight-specific, I always sign up for flight status notifications, offered for free by each airline. They will send you text or email messages with status updates so you can know you’re staying up-to-date.

3. Load up your phone: Be sure to load your phone with your airline(s)’s toll free phone number(s) just in case there is a cancellation.

Tip: If your flight is canceled, get in line as soon as possible. At the same time, also get on the phone and call the airline directly. Usually the airline representative at the call center can rebook you on a flight faster than the line moves enough to give you the chance to speak to customer service or the gate agent. Important: Time is of the essence since there aren’t a lot of flights these days with empty seats and you want to get one before they are all gone. You can also try rebooking by using your smart phone or laptop, but most airlines aren’t that advanced yet.

Good to know: Here’s a website that I created which has every airline phone number in the world. It’s called AirlineNumbers.com.

4. Use Twitter: I also like to follow my airline and airports on Twitter. On my Twitter handle (@JohnnyJet) I have all kinds of lists including Airlines on Twitter, U.S. Airports on Twitter and International Airports on Twitter. Most airports are not that active, so don’t get your hopes up, but there are a bunch of airlines that are amazing, and some can even help you rebook by reaching out to them via a tweet. My favorite is American Airlines (@AmericanAir). They respond immediately.

Here’s another useful Travel Twitter Resource Page.

5. Useful apps/websites: I’m a fan of FlightCaster.com—which can give me a good idea if my domestic flight will be on time or not if I put in my flight info 6 hours before.

Like every frequent traveler, one of my favorite apps is TripIt.com. The site has a free version but its pro version is worth the $49/year if you travel a lot, as it notifies you of delays, cancellations, gate changes and other flight details.

In case there are mass cancellations, I don’t wait for an airline to reserve me a hotel room. I jump on it as soon as I know I’m spending the night. My favorite app for last-minute hotel rooms is HotelTonight. But I also use Priceline.com. In case I need to drive somewhere, I carry numbers of car rental agencies.

Good to bookmark: Hotelnumbers.com and CarRentalNumbers.com.

6. Get help: If you’re in a real bind and didn’t book through a travel agent, you can call CrankyConcierge.com. For a fee, they will help you make other flight arrangements, find a hotel or transportation and assist you in resolving disputes.

Happy travels!

Also from Johnny Jet:

How to Sleep on a Plane
10 Ways to Find Cheap Holiday Flights
11 Tips for Traveling During the Flu Season