What to Do If Your Flight is Cancelled Due to the Blizzard

A Delta aircraft being deiced at LaGuardia

By Paul Riegler on 23 January 2016
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The weather outside in many parts of the country is frightful after weeks of unusually balmy conditions in some of the same locales. The current winter storm, which has resulted in the cancellation of some 10,000 flights since Friday and delayed thousands of the remaining flights, is causing a travel nightmare for many.

The National Weather Service issued an alert promising “extremely dangerous travel” conditions amidst heavy snowfall and strong winds.

For those who must nonetheless make the trip, however, here are some useful tips on how to survive the ordeal.

Keep in mind that weather trumps everything and that airlines that hand out hotel and meal vouchers for delays that are within their control, such as equipment issues, will typically only try to rebook the passenger on the next available flight. More importantly, there are no rules that require airlines to do anything for passengers in such circumstances.

Given the number of cancellations and delays, however, the next available flight could be in the middle of the week.

Passengers can request a hotel voucher but the chances are that the airline will only hand out distressed passenger vouchers, which offer a discount at a specific hotel. Keep in mind that that hotel may be sold out and people may be camping out in its lobby by now.

Airlines will also make exceptions for their best customers, those with higher-tier elite status in their frequent flyer programs. FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira reports having received a hotel room several times when Mother Nature intervened with a flight.

If you hold status with an airline – any status at all, calling the airline and inputting your frequent flyer number will markedly reduce the amount of time you have to wait on hold. On Friday afternoon, when non-status passengers were facing hold times of two hours on all of the major carriers, entering my Platinum Medallion SkyMiles number when calling Delta got me an agent in roughly 30 seconds.

Of course, the best advice we can give is to stay home, make some hot chocolate, toast some marshmallows, and go outside and build a snowman.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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