Few things are more stressful than getting stranded at the airport.
When I realized I would be flying during #Snowzilla2016, I didn’t freak out. I planned ahead and made some very smart decisions. However, I still made a few mistakes. Here’s what you can learn from my experience.
Here’s what I did right.
1. Plan for delays.
You can only plan so much, but here are four things that saved me:
- If you’re traveling the day of or day after a major storm, change your reservation to depart the day before and avoid it totally. Most domestic airlines will waive all change fees.
- Make sure you have the airlines reservation number programmed into your phone ready to go.
- Set up your reservation to receive email or texts for important information like cancellations or delays. You can do this on the airlines website after putting in your reservation number.
- Download Flightaware so you can track your flight as well as the inbound flight. This is essentially your flight that will be making its way to you.
2. Queue up as soon as your flight is cancelled.
This happened to me four times in 24 hours! If you’re already at the airport, get in line immediately AND call the reservation line (which you already have programmed into your phone). Double your chance of success. But here’s my secret trick. While in line….
3. Use Twitter!
Yes, you heard me. This actually worked for me and is a very good tactic when major storms like snowzilla wipe out 10,000 flights. EVERYONE is on the phone trying to rebook and there’s a 45-minute waiting time for a representative.
This is when I take the road less traveled. Follow the airline’s account and tweet them a message:
My flight is cancelled, please help!
Often, they will reply and ask you to direct message them with your confirmation number. With that info, they can rebook you sometimes faster than waiting in line or calling.
Never a bad idea.
Here’s what I did wrong.
Mistake #1: Traveling without power.
I should have packed a power strip with 6” chord. Your phone is your life line. With battery levels draining fast and all outlets being used in an airport, this is a way to plug in and share power. Brilliant!
Mistake #2: No real exit strategy.
My flight home was late Sunday night, which I thought would not be affected since the storm ended Sunday morning. Snow crews were working the airports round the clock, right? Wrong. I was put on four flights, each one cancelled. I realized that I was most likely not getting home until Wednesday.
I was flying from Columbus to Newark. It was a small jet (not a priority) into Newark, which was experiencing delays in getting both runways cleared, while JFK and LGA were not. How did I know this? I follow the airports on Twitter, of course!
Was there an airport hub not affected by the storm? Hubs have more flights and fly to more airports. Chicago is a hub and ½ hour flight from Columbus. Once at Chicago ORD, I would have had the option of MANY flights departing to both JFK or LGA.
Mistake #3: Not looking at booking a flight on another carrier
Is there availability on another flight with a different carrier? Some airlines will rebook you on another airline if their flights are cancelled.
I found a Delta flight departing Columbus to LGA and with only one seat left I quickly booked it using miles (I’ve got a lot). However, had I known before I started panicking in line, the United agent would have booked me on that Delta flight as apart of their passenger contract. It basically says if they can’t get me home and someone else can, they will purchase that ticket.
Here’s the silver lining:
Want to know the real reason why I totally dropped the ball on my return flight? I was having a very nice weekend in Columbus, shopping, seeing old friends and enjoying nice dinners out.
In the end, I got home only one day later and with no snow to shovel! Delays and cancelled flights (and on occasion, getting stranded at the airport) are a part of travel. Try to remind yourself it’s all part of the adventure. Try to have some fun in between figuring our your flights.
What are your tips for getting home when you’re stranded at the airport? Share in the comments!