Spending the night at the airport probably isn’t on your list of things to do this winter; yet, many were left in that very predicament thanks to the harsh winter storms that closed down Heathrow Airport and kept passengers on the tarmac as long as 12 hours in New York. This weekend may bring about another slew of travel woes as another snowstorm is predicted to hit the northeastern and mid-Atlantic parts of the U.S.
Unfortunately, many business travelers don’t get the option of postponing their travel plans and have to endure what comes their way. If you have to fly, follow these tips to make the most out of an unpredictable situation.
1. Travel in the morning
You may have to fight morning traffic to get to the airport, but the advantages outweigh that little nuisance. First of all, there are more options for alternate flights if your plane gets delayed or canceled, providing you more opportunities to get to your destination. In addition, you mitigate the likelihood of getting a plane that has run into problems at other airports.
2. Book nonstop flights
While you probably do this already anyway, it’s worth mentioning because getting stuck in a city where you don’t have any accommodations can be extremely frustrating and expensive. If you book a nonstop flight and your flight gets canceled, you can at least return to your home or hotel without scrambling for a place to stay with all of the other stranded passengers.
3. Research your connecting flight
During times when you must fly with a connection, take extra precautions to protect yourself against unforeseen hiccups. For example, you should check the weather forecast in your connecting city and research alternative routes before your departure date. On your travel date, inform the flight attendant immediately if you become doubtful that you can make your connecting flight, so he or she can start making other arrangements as soon as possible.
4. Check airline Twitter updates
A majority of the airlines are turning to Twitter to warn passengers of upcoming delays, locations with dangerous weather conditions and flying tips. Find out if your airline uses Twitter and keep track of their updates. Don’t worry if social media is not your thing; you don’t need a Twitter account to do so.
5. Get to the airport early
Waiting at the airport may not exactly be an enjoyable pastime, but it certainly beats being told that your spot on the plane has been given up. To best avoid your chances of being bumped or having your reservation forfeited altogether, get to the departure gate early. AirTran Airways cautions that going through airport security can be as slow as 1.5 hours, which doesn’t include the time it takes to check in baggage or walk to your gate.
6. Be proactive if your flight gets canceled
Your flight might get canceled despite all of your efforts. If this happens, call the airline while you stand in line at the ticket counter because you never know which method will get you to an agent faster.
When you rebook, opt for bigger planes that are traveling far as these are more likely to take off. Also, investigate other nearby airports to see if they are viable options.
7. Get written documentation
If you are promised compensation for a canceled flight, be sure to get it in writing and note the agent’s name and badge number. It’s also wise to contact the airline through emails and letters if you have complaints so that you have documented proof of your correspondence.
Were you caught in a winter storm at the airport? What was your experience like and what did you do to pass the time?
Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.