Fly canceled? Experts share some advice on what to do

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NOW DRIVING THE MORNING. >> ONE OF THESE FRUSTRATIONS IS THAT THE CARD APPEARS NOT TO BE UP TO DATE. A WOMAN WAS TELLING ME THAT HER 5:00 AM FLIGHT TO PHOENIX WAS CANCELED BEFORE IT ARRIVED AT AIR ART. ON THE PICTURE IN FRONT OF ME, IT STILL SAYS IT’S TIME. IT SEEMS LIKE THERE’S A REASON FOR ALL THIS SOUTHWEST CHAOS. TRAVEL EXPERTS SAY THERE IS A FAILURE IN THE AIRLINE SYSTEMS, CAUSING CANCELED FLIGHTS AND DELAYS. IN LOGAN, SOME PASSENGERS HAVE BEEN INFORMED THAT FLIGHTS ARE NOT AVAILABLE UNTIL THE WEEKEND. AND FOR ONE FAMILY, GOING FROM PHOENIX TO BOSTON FOR THE WINTER CLASSIC AFTER A SERIES OF DELAYS, FLYING WAS NO LONGER AN OPTION. >> WE WILL NOT BE THERE UNTIL TODAY WITH THEM SAYING WAIT, WAIT. THEY WOULD HAVE LET US STAY THERE. WE LEFT, WE GOT A TRUCK WITH A COMPANY. >> THE FAMILY HAS GOT IN A TRUCK AND IS DRIVING FROM PHOENIX TO BOSTON. THEY ARE EXPECTING TO GET HERE BY WEDNESDAY. NOW THE US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT SAYS IT IS REVIEWING SOUTHWEST, CALLING THE SITUATION UNACCEPTABLE. PEOPLE IN BUFFALO, NEW YORK ARE — AT THIS MOMENT, WE CAN SEE THE LONG LINE OF PEOPLE WAITING TO LOWER THEIR FLIGHTS IN SOUTHWEST. SOME PEOPLE DON’T HAVE A GAME PLAN. A WOMAN TOLD ME THAT IF SHE CANNOT RECOVER WITH THE DESKTOP AGENT, SHE IS CANCELING THE FLIGHT COMPLETELY AND RESCHEDULE WITH ANOTHER AIRLI

Thousands of travelers were stranded at airports or on hold trying to rebook flights this week as a major storm disrupted travel across the US and Canada. More than 2,800 flights had already been canceled in the US as of 7 am on Tuesday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware, and the problems are likely to continue through at least Wednesday. Staying calm and knowing your rights can go a long way if your flight is cancelled, experts say. Here is some of their advice for dealing with a flight cancellation: My flight was cancelled. What’s next? If you still want to get to your destination, most airlines will rebook you on the next available flight for free, as long as there are seats, according to the US Department of Transportation. you are entitled to a full refund even if you purchased non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund of any baggage fees, seat upgrades or other extras. Kurt Ebenhoch, a travel consumer advocate and former airline executive, emphasized that travelers are eligible for a refund, not just vouchers for future travel. If you bring a voucher, be sure to check blackout dates and other usage restrictions. Will I have to pay a change fee if I rebook my flights? Major airlines including Delta, American, Southwest, Air Canada, Alaska, Frontier and Spirit are waiving change fees during the storm, giving travelers more flexibility as they change plans. But Ebenhoch said travelers should read the fine print carefully. If you book a return flight outside the window set by the airline, you may have to pay the difference in fares, for example.Can I ask to be booked on a flight with another airline?Yes. Airlines are not required to put you on another airline’s flight, but they can, and sometimes do, under the DOT. Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, recommends researching alternative flights while waiting to speak with an agent. Agents are often under a lot of pressure when a flight is canceled, so giving them a few options helps. Ebenhoch also suggests looking for alternative airports close to your original destination. Is the airline obligated to give me a hotel room or other compensation? Do not. Each airline has its own policies on serving customers whose flights have been cancelled, according to the DOT. But many airlines offer accommodations, so you’ll want to check with your staff. I am facing a long wait to reschedule. What should I do? If someone in your travel group is at a higher tier in a frequent flyer program, use the number reserved for that tier to call the airline, Ebenhoch said. You could also try calling an airline’s international help desk, as these agents can make changes. How can I avoid this in the future? If you’re worried about getting to the airport in time for a morning flight, he said, consider staying at an airport-connected hotel the night before. And consider flying outside of busy dates; this year, the US Transportation Safety Administration expects large crowds on December 30, for example. Klee recommends comparing airline policies on the DOT Service Panel: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/airline-customer-service- control panel. He also suggests booking multiple flights and canceling the ones you don’t use, as long as the airline refunds your money or converts it to credit for a future flight.

Thousands of travelers were stranded at airports or on hold trying to reschedule flights this week as a severe storm disrupted travel across the United States and Canada.

More than 2,800 flights have already been canceled in the United States as of 7 am on Tuesday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware, and the problems are likely to continue through at least Wednesday.

Staying calm and knowing your rights can go a long way if your flight is cancelled, experts say. Here is some of their advice for dealing with a flight cancellation:

My flight was cancelled. What’s next?

If you still want to get to your destination, most airlines will rebook you on the next available flight for free, as long as there are seats, according to the US Department of Transportation.

If you wish to cancel your trip, you are entitled to a full refund, even if you have purchased non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund of any baggage fees, seat upgrades or other extras.

Kurt Ebenhoch, consumer travel advocate and former airline executive, emphasized that travelers are eligible for refunds, not just vouchers for future travel. If you bring a voucher, inquire about blackout dates and other restrictions on its use.

Will I have to pay a change fee if I rebook my flights?

Major airlines including Delta, American, Southwest, Air Canada, Alaska, Frontier and Spirit are waiving change fees during the storm, giving travelers more flexibility as they change their plans. But Ebenhoch said travelers should read the fine print carefully. If you book a return flight outside the window that the airline sets, you may have to pay the difference in fares, for example.

Can I ask to be booked on a flight with another airline?

Yes. Airlines are not required to put you on another airline’s flight, but they can, and sometimes do, under the DOT. Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, recommends researching alternative flights while waiting to speak with an agent. Agents are typically under a lot of pressure when a flight is cancelled, so giving them some options helps.

Ebenhoch also suggests looking for alternative airports close to your original destination.

Is the airline obligated to give me a hotel room or other compensation?

Do not. Each airline has its own policies on serving customers whose flights have been cancelled, according to the DOT. But many airlines offer accommodations, so you’ll want to check with your staff.

I am facing a long wait to reschedule. What should I do?

If someone in your travel group is at a higher tier on a frequent flyer program, use the number reserved for that tier to call the airline, Ebenhoch said. You can also try calling an airline’s international help desk, as these agents can make changes.

How can I avoid this in the future?

Ebenhoch said nonstop flights and morning flights are generally the most reliable if you can book them. If you’re worried about getting to the airport in time for a morning flight, he said, consider staying at an airport-connected hotel the night before. And consider flying outside of busy dates; this year, the US Transportation Security Administration expects large crowds on December 30th, for example.

Klee recommends comparing airline policies on the DOT Service Dashboard: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/airline-customer-service-dashboard. He also suggests booking multiple flights and canceling the ones you don’t use, as long as the airline refunds your money or converts it to credit for a future flight.

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