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Traveling in a blizzard is the absolute worst. But does it have to be?

AuthorAda Kozłowska

As I write, Winter Storm Juno is inching its way along the northeastern coastline. The Weather Channel is throwing around words like “crippling”, “record-breaking”, and “historic” like it’s nobody’s business. Even the optimists amongst us are heeding the warning, deciding to work from home to stay as far away from travel as possible. But what if you don’t have that option? What if, you’re one of many business travelers who planned weeks or months ago to be flying in from the Midwest or the West coast? Just to find out that your flight is one of the + 4,360 flights to be canceled. Those waived change over fees may appease you temporarily but is that enough? What are your rights as a passenger? And is this storm even that bad? 

How bad could it be? 

The last two major blizzards in recent memory were the aptly named Snowmageddon of 2010 and the North American Blizzard of 2006. Both had maximum snowfall numbers of 38.3 inches and 30.3 inches respectively. In comparison Juno is only predicted to drop between 20 and 30 inches of snow. After comparing those numbers, the issue may not sound as bad, but numbers don’t matter much if you’re the one stuck at an airport for hours. So what are your options? Do you buy a comfie neck pillow and contort into awkward positions in those contraptions airports have taken to calling seats? Or do you book a hotel and charge it to your business card? 

Your Options

  • You may choose to accept the waived change over fees and switch your flight to another date. 
  • Tickets may be partially or completely refunded to you if the delays last for days instead of hours. 
  • Unfortunately, Acts of God or ‘Force majeure’ , remove the legal responsibility of airlines to provide their passengers with lodging, additional transport or to cover additional costs incurred as a result of the delays.
  • However, if you are flying from Europe on any carrier or to Europe on a European carrier, the airlines must still arrange for you to have a hotel to stay in, transport to/from this hotel, meals and drinks. In addition customers are entitled to receive either of the following:
  • a ticket refund (in full or for the part you didn’t use)
  • alternative transport to your final destination as quickly as possible
  • rebooking at a later date, subject to seat availability

Advice

  • If you are not already at the airport, constantly check updates from sites like flightstats.com and flightaware.com to stay up to date with the status of your flight. You may also be able to set smartphone alerts through these sites and their apps. 
  • Make sure to be aware of your airline’s change policies. It is always better to be in the know, not knowing could be pricey.
  • If you are at the airport, stay up to date on weather patterns and the arrival screens. “Checking the arrival board will give you an idea of whether enough airplanes are coming in to actually turn around and operate as another flight.” — Arlene Fleming AirTravel Expert at about.com
  • If you are at the airport, go to the gate/check in desk to determine if there are opportunities for you to rebook your flight for that day or if your airline is offering other means of compensation that may be beneficial to you. Sometimes they may do more for you if you are willing to ask!

To answer my original question, yes, traveling in less than ideal weather conditions will be a pain, but if you know your options, and heed our advice maybe your experience won’t be the worst after all! 

If you have any additional tips and pointers about traveling in inclement weather share with us in the comments below! I relish every opportunity to learn how to make travel experiences better!

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