Rerouting, change of reservation, diversion, you name it. Making last minute flight changes can be a huge stressor in the middle of an already stressful holiday season.
Hundreds of flights have already been canceled at the last minute due to staff shortages linked to the pandemic. Perhaps a wave of coronavirus variants is forcing you to cancel your trip. Or if a winter snowstorm prevented you from taking off?
Whatever the reason, be prepared for last minute flight changes or cancellations this year.
FIND LAST MINUTE FLIGHTS
If your flight is delayed or canceled, here’s how to get another one quickly:
SEARCH FOR OTHER AIRPORTS
Many major cities are served by multiple airports, so broaden your airport search. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport can be stranded by a snowstorm, but that doesn’t necessarily mean nearby Newark Liberty International or LaGuardia airports are out of service.
And look beyond the big airlines. JSX is a semi-private jet service, but the fares are often not much more than commercial air fares.
USE RESERVATION TOOLS
Even if you’re used to booking through an individual airline’s website, tools like Google Flights will allow you to quickly compare routes between multiple airlines, nearby airports, and selected dates. Booking tools can help you find an available itinerary that you would have otherwise missed.
SEARCH FOR ONE-WAY, INDIVIDUAL AND DIRECT FLIGHTS TICKETS
Don’t limit your options when looking for round-trip tickets. In a pinch, book a one-way ticket and find the return flight later.
And, if you are traveling with others, rather than looking for group tickets, consider looking for individual tickets, especially if your group is comfortable breaking up. If there are only four seats left on one flight but another flight has two, a search of your party of six will not show any available tickets. But if some people are okay with being left behind and catching up later, you improve your chances of getting to your destination, period.
Fly straight when possible. If not, try connecting through destinations less likely to be affected by bad winter weather (San Diego above Chicago, for example). While the stopover flight might be cheaper, it might not be worth it if weather issues in the stopover city are the reason you can’t take off.
HOW TO GET YOUR MONEY
Here are ways to improve your chances of getting reimbursed for flights interrupted by winter storms or COVID-19:
USE A CREDIT CARD WITH TRAVEL INSURANCE
One of the best ways to get money back for canceled flights (or get reimbursed for any extra costs incurred in the event of a delay) is to book with a credit card that offers travel insurance.
The exact conditions vary by map, but you can generally expect coverage for flights affected by extreme weather conditions. And generally, this type of insurance will cover not only the flight itself, but related expenses, such as an extra hotel night to catch a flight the next day.
BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE
If your credit card doesn’t include travel insurance as a benefit, consider purchasing coverage separately. Review the terms and conditions carefully, as they vary widely from plan to plan.
TURN TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Technology can help. Many airlines are embracing social media as a tool for customer service, and account managers can even be equipped to directly assist passengers with re-booking, issuing flight credits, and more.
If the delay is the fault of an airline, you could get compensation. For example, the collapse of Southwest Airlines in October 2021 cost the company $ 75 million, according to its third quarter 2021 earnings report. Much of that figure has been attributed to customer refunds and ” goodwill gestures â, as Southwest provided coupons to many affected customers.
OTHER TIPS FOR TRAVELING DURING THE WINTER STORM SEASON
– Be prepared to stay longer than expected. Find budget accommodation near the airport before your trip. If your flight is delayed and you need to stay an extra night, you don’t want to scramble to find a room that meets your standards and budget.
– Pack small snacks. Protein bars or nuts are great backups in case you get stuck at an airport overnight and restaurants and shops are closed.
– Avoid checking baggage. While it’s possible to board another last-minute flight, you don’t want your packed baggage on a delayed flight to be the only thing holding you back. Cabin travel allows you to be more agile. If you need to check in your baggage, keep things that you can’t do without, like phone chargers and medicines, with you.
– Configure theft alerts. Check your flight status before you leave for the airport or, better yet, set up automatic flight updates via text alerts. An early warning can help you avoid arriving at the airport for a canceled flight or give you a boost in booking a new flight before other passengers.
THE LOWER LINE
You might not think the rush to make a last-minute flight change will happen to you – until it does. And given the challenges of travel this holiday season, you should be more prepared than ever.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Sally French is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.
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