Here are my go-to tips, websites and apps for all you need to know about weather delays and cancellations:
I don’t leave home without knowing the weather where I am and where I’m going—including at layover airports. I use Weather.com and this handy traveler’s weather page I made that even includes the turbulence forecast.
If there’s a huge storm forcing mass cancellations I check with the airline to see if they’ve adjusted their change policies due to the weather so I can rebook without a penalty and fly when there won’t be any hassles.
If there’s disruptive weather in any of the destinations relevant to me, I’ll then check the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) Flight Delay Information – Air Traffic Control System Command Center. It lists general airport conditions at the US’s top 40 major airports.
2. Sign up for flight notifications
Since the Air Traffic Control System Command Center is not flight-specific, I always sign up for flight status notifications, offered for free by each airline. They will send you text or email messages with status updates so you can know you’re staying up-to-date.
3. Load up your phone
Be sure to load your phone with your airline(s)’s toll free phone number(s) and apps just in case there is a cancellation. Tip: If your flight is canceled then get in line as soon as possible and at the same time, also get on the phone and call the airline directly. Usually the airline representative at the call center can rebook you on a flight faster than the line moves and you have the chance to speak to customer service or the gate agent.
Important: Time is of the essence since there aren’t a lot of flights these days with empty seats and you want to get one before they are all gone. You can also try rebooking by using your smart phone or laptop but most airlines aren’t that advanced yet.
Good to know: Here’s a website that I created which has every airline phone number in the world. It’s called AirlineNumbers.com.
4. Use Twitter
I also like to follow my airline and airports on Twitter. On my Twitter handle (@JohnnyJet) I have all kinds of lists including Airlines on Twitter, U.S. Airports on Twitter and International Airports on Twitter. Most airports are not that active, so don’t get your hopes up, but there are a bunch of airlines that are amazing and some can even help you rebook by reaching out to them via a tweet. My favorite is American Airlines (@AmericanAir). They respond immediately.
Here’s another useful Travel Twitter Resource Page.
5. Useful apps/websites
Like every frequent traveler, one of my favorite apps is TripIt.com. The site has a free version but their pro version is worth the $49/year if you travel a lot, as they notify you of delays, cancellations, gate changes and other flight details. In case there are mass cancellations, I don’t wait for an airline to reserve me a hotel room. I jump on it as soon as I know I’m spending the night (Hotelnumbers.com). My favorite app for last minute hotel rooms is HotelTonight. But I also use Priceline.com and in case I need to drive somewhere, I load my phone with phone numbers of car rental agencies (CarRentalNumbers.com) or use Uber for short drives. Here’s another website worth checking out with helpful travel tips. 6. Get help
In case you’re in a real bind and didn’t book through a travel agent, you can call CrankyConcierge.com. For a fee they will help you make other flight arrangements, find a hotel or transportation and assist you in resolving disputes.
7. Get FreeBird
It’s a first-of-its-kind mobile rebooking tool that empowers travelers to skip the line and instantly book a new ticket—on any airline at no additional cost—in the event of a flight cancellation, four-hour delay or missed connection. Currently, it costs a flat fee of $19 for a one-way flight or $34 for a roundtrip flight during its launch promotion. Unfortunately, the price will apparently go up in 2017 and vary flight by flight since some are more prone to disruptions.
The cool thing about Freebird is that it makes it so simple and cheap to get on a new flight. Instead of potentially spending endless amounts of time and aggravation on the phone, and/or forking over hundreds if not thousands of dollars to rebook, it lets you rebook without speaking to someone or spending any extra money.
Freebird will instantly notify you in the event of a flight disruption, and it gives you the ability to rebook in less than 30 seconds with only three taps on your mobile device (1: tap to open your alert; 2: tap to select a new flight; and 3: tap to confirm your selection). You can experience a simulation by clicking this link and inputting your cell number. You will see there’s no need to input any additional search, personal or payment info.
To get Freebird, just log on to the website after your flight is booked. The process takes less than three minutes and it can be purchased approximately up to two days prior to departure. Here’s a video on how it works.
8. File a claim
AirHelp is a brilliant website, app and service that will help airline passengers around the world secure compensation for delayed, cancelled or overbooked flights in or to and from the European Union. AirHelp is an airline’s worst nightmare because it fights for those who are unsure of their rights, or don’t have the time, confidence or expertise to file claims. It doesn’t cost a thing if they don’t get you cash but if they do, they get 25% of your reward, which seems fair to me. I used them to get money back from a BUD-LHR-YYZ flight that the airline (BA) originally told me that I wasn’t due any money for. But then I tried AirHelp a-year-and-a-half later (you can do it up to three years after the flight in question) and received a check for $900 USD (it was for me and my wife to split)!
9. Buy travel insurance
I highly recommend getting travel insurance as soon as you purchase your trip because once a storm is formed you can’t buy it. Also get it from a third party because if you buy insurance, let’s say, for a cruise from a cruise line and they go out of business, then you, my friend, are out of luck. I recommend first pricing out rates with InsureMyTrip.com since they are the Kayak of travel insurance. They have 28 suppliers but the company I usually go with is Allianz Travel Insurance since they are the giant in the travel insurance business with offices in 34 countries that span six continents so chances are they will have people on the ground no matter where you are in the world. Full Disclosure: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.and InsureMyTrip used to be one of my sponsors.
I also recommend using a credit card with travel protection benefits to help. A number of credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, and the Chase United℠ Explorer Card offer trip cancellation, luggage protection, and trip interruption insurance. To be sure that you are covered, read the fine print and/or contact the card issuer to learn more.
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