Flight Delays Due to Weather

Flight delays and cancellations can happen at any time of the year, but in winter, they are sometimes monumental.  And it may be sunny where you are; however, bad weather somewhere else could lead to a delay or cancellation at your airport.  Your plane, the crew scheduled to be on it, or an airport where you are scheduled to land could be storm shrouded. Or your aircraft or crew could have been delayed by poor weather in between other airports. Or there could be a line of thunderstorms blocking flight paths.

What is the airline’s responsibility?

An airline must put a passenger on the next flight that has an open seat.  That is really their only obligation, outside of a possible refund.  These days, most flights are booked to full or nearly full capacity.  And during holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, of course, the “next available flight” could be days away, depending on the scope of the disruption.

Does the airline owe you a refund?

If your flight is canceled and you decide not to try and find a seat on another flight, you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your itinerary.  If you continue with your travel, you are not entitled to a refund, regardless of a delay or cancellation.  The airline is also not obligated to provide you with compensation for food or lodging because of a delay or cancellation.

If a delay is the airline’s fault – for example, a mechanical delay – you might be offered some sort of compensation, but the carrier is not legally bound to do so.

If the cancellation is weather-related, you are unlikely to receive any compensation.  And remember, weather problems can be far broader than what you see in your local area.

What do you do?

#1- Be proactive, purchase travel insurance.  Basic Travel insurance costs $30 to $40 per person, but if your flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather the airline is not responsible for additional hotel costs or other expenses that may be associated with delays. Travel insurance can not only help by paying for a hotel room, but also may help get you on a different airline that may have availability.  Columbus Travel (800-373-3328) can help you get the right coverage, even if you purchased your airline ticket on the internet or by calling the airline.

#2- Register for flight alerts.  The earlier you know there’s a problem, the more time you have to find other alternatives.  This is a service that all airlines offer, and they will notify you as far in advance as possible that you may need to change flights.  By using these services you will have better choices of alternate flights.

#3- Stay calm.  Airlines do their best to reaccommodate each passenger delayed due to weather.  Tell yourself to “chill” when dealing with the airline representatives.  The weather is not their fault and yelling and being demanding won’t get you anywhere.  Treat them with respect and you will be treated with respect and find them more willing to help you.

#4- Be ready to change plans ahead of time.  Pay attention to the weather, and if you discover conditions are going to be bad, check your airline’s website to see if they have enacted a flexible rebooking policy.  Many airlines do so in poor weather.  Waivers allow fliers ticketed to certain airports to make a change to their itineraries with no penalty.  Also, if you can fly a day or two earlier or later, it may be worth changing your ticket to move your travel away from the time of the storm.  Or, if you want to postpone your trip altogether, the airlines sometimes waive the change fee and give you the option of using the value of your ticket toward a future flight.

#5- Consider alternate airports.  If you and a storm are both headed for Boston, will the storm also hit Providence and/or Manchester?   If JFK in New York is fogged in, how about LaGuardia, Newark, Hartford or even Philadelphia?  If you can’t get into San Francisco, what about Oakland or San Jose?

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