Half a million travelers are in limbo with Hurricane Irene. What to do? In mid-2010, the federal “Passenger’s Bill of Rights” regulations were passed. The days when you could be left on the tarmac are long gone. Even so, who has time for travel delays due to inclement weather, air traffic, strikes, or mechanical issues? Here’s how to beat the system and even come out ahead — as over 55 million people in the East Coast are awaiting Irene’s arrival.
Hurricane Irene Strikes, disrupts all East Coast travel plans:
All 5 airports in the New York City area are planning to shutdown operations at noon on Sunday for at least 24 hours. (Changed – see my new article at 9 AM EST). Major U.S. airlines canceled at least 6,100 flights through Monday, grounding hundreds of thousands of passengers. The storm could strike major airports from Washington to Boston with heavy rain and dangerous winds. Airlines waived rebooking fees for customers delaying flights to over two dozen cities on the East Coast. Some areas expect 6-8 inches of rain. In New York City, lower Manhattan has been evacuated and subways will close at noon today. Broadway and Atlantic City casinos are closed. The Mets game has been delayed. Amtrak cancelled all trains.
Most carriers automatically notify travelers who have signed up for flight alerts by e-mail, text or phone alerts when delays occur. Now, you can combine your alerts with the power of Twitter! Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and other carriers are using Twitter to notify passengers of major flight cancellations and rebooking. Delta even has a dedicated Twitter account for online customer service issues, @DeltaAssist, staffed by live agents on weekdays. Because Twitter news spreads so rapidly, customers who use Twitter to seek help may get better service, as the airlines don’t want service issues to become viral.
Cancellations and Delays:
The federal Department of Transportation doesn’t actually require airlines to compensate passengers when flights are delayed or canceled. Each carrier’s policy on canceled flights is in a “contract of carriage,” posted on the airline’s web site. Print this before you fly, in the event you need to seek compensation – you’ll be able to instruct any airline employee who is unfamiliar with the details
Read the major airlines’ policies – JetBlue, Southwest, Delta, American, United, US Airways, Continental, AirTran, Northwest, Alaska Airlines
- JetBlue: Customers whose flights are delayed for at least an hour after a scheduled departure due to a “controllable irregularity” are entitled to a $25 credit toward future travel and $50 for delays of from two to five hours.
- Delta: Meal vouchers are issued to passengers delayed for over four hours after a scheduled departure. They also will provide passengers with reasonable costs of a hotel when the delay occurs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Real-time Updates: Go to http://flightaware.com for developing airline news.
Refunds: You may demand a refund for a canceled flight from any airline — even if it’s due to bad weather — if you decide not to take the trip.
International Delays & European Union Airlines: Carriers flying to or from an EU state are required to pay customers up to 600 euros, depending on the length of the delay and length of the flight, if the problem is the carrier’s fault. For weather-related delays of at least two hours or more, passengers are also entitled to hotel rooms and meals. The rules also apply to any flight by any airline departing the European Union, though enforcement outside Europe can be difficult.
See Part II — More Travel Tips: Vouchers, Refund Roulette, and the Fine Art of Bumping.