Weather can be unpredictable, especially in the last few years. Especially if you’re trying to fly in the frost or rainy seasons, there’s a good chance that your flight will experience a delay. But what do you do when a weather delay actually happens? Airlines have policies in place to accommodate you in these situations, but you may have to advocate for yourself a bit first. Beyond that, there are a few other things you need to know to prepare yourself for potential weather delays.
Before you even book your flight, you should arm yourself with some knowledge. Specifically, you need to know your rights should anything go wrong—like the airline delaying your flight due to the weather. Many countries require that the airline provide a full refund in cases of significant delays or cancellations, but this isn’t the case everywhere. An airline should offer to book you another flight free of charge, but this often requires giving up any compensation you may be owed from the initial delay.
With a few simple tools, you can stay ahead of any delays or cancellations. This way, should anything occur, you’re at the front of the line and ready to receive a new ticket or compensation. Use platforms like FlightAware to monitor flights. You can also opt-in to receive notifications from your specific airline. Most of the larger airlines now offer a mobile app that provides you with real-time updates about your flight.
Once you have your flight booked, make sure to start monitoring the weather patterns during the weeks leading up to your departure date. If the weather is going to be particularly bad, you may opt for an earlier flight or just outright reschedule. Many airlines will give passengers an option to reschedule if they feel the weather is going to cause delays. Change your flights ahead of time to avoid a headache later.
Another big reason to use the official airline apps is that you can often immediately rebook once there is a weather delay. Alternatively, just go to the nearest kiosk. If the app fails you or if employees simply aren’t helping, you can try reaching out to the airline’s social media accounts for assistance. Finally, look for alternative flights or nearby cities for different departures. Airlines don’t have to rebook you a flight with another airline if you request it, but some will.
One of the most commonly shared memories of vacationing is having your parents wake you up before the sun even rises for a flight that’s hours away. While this may seem excessive, it can actually save you a lot of trouble. You should always be at the airport at at least two hours ahead of the scheduled time for your flight, but it’s much better to give yourself a buffer. Plus, if your flight is delayed, it may depart earlier than the updated delayed departure time. Always keep yourself updated on any flight status changes to avoid missing your plane.
After a flight delay, making the most of your situation is key. Most airlines will give you access to their lounges during a delay. Unlike other areas of the airport, these lounges are much more comfortable and quieter while giving you much better access to customer service agents. Take advantage of amenities like charging stations, food, and drinks while a more experienced agent helps you seek compensation or address other problems you may have.
Though airlines are required to provide you with refunds or compensation, actually receiving them can be a little difficult. Always make sure to get a refund if you choose not to fly due to major delays, and regularly check in about your request. Most major credit card companies offer certain protections while traveling, so it may be better to book your flight on your card. Additionally, understand the difference between vouchers and cash refunds. In most countries, airlines are not allowed to substitute your cash refund for a voucher unless you specifically request it.
Okay, the worst has happened, and the weather has delayed your flight—what do you do now? The most important thing is to be decisive. If you take too long mulling over your options, you may miss out on key opportunities like rebooking onto a sooner flight. Weigh the pros and cons of waiting out the delay or rebooking. From changes in scheduling to potentially missing other flights, you need to consider the implications of your choice.
If the weather does delay your flight, you don’t necessarily need to hop onto another plane from that same airport. Consider other options. Many major cities have multiple airports, so you may be able to get a sooner flight from another location. Alternatively, you may be able to take a rideshare, bus, or train to another location and fly from there. Make sure to compare both the time and cost of these actions to wait for the delay.
Not interacting with the airline is among the worst things you can do during a delay. They are your main resource for information about your flight, as well as any ongoing problems you need to be ready for. Engage with the airlines on social media platforms or use international customer service numbers if the problems are particularly widespread.
Under certain weather patterns, you might be facing an overnight delay. Many people choose to simply sleep in the lounge areas of the airport, but you may be risking theft problems if you have a lot of bags. Major airports likely have connected airport hotels, which range from “pretty good” to “avoid entirely,” so always do a bit of research before spending the night in one. If you have a credit card, it may have trip delay protections that will cover accommodations at night—but this may only cover certain hotels.
Another option available to you during a flight delay is the standby list. Basically, you can add yourself to the standby list at an airport kiosk, through the app, or by speaking with a customer service associate. The airline works its way down the list, offering a new flight for each individual. If you have elite, premier, or some other elevated status with that airline, you probably have priority. This is another reason to arrive early; you will have additional same-day standby options.
If you’re planning to travel during a time of the year when the weather is particularly bad—or if you’re just a cautious person—you may choose to get flight insurance to cover delays and cancellations. Many credit cards will even offer you insurance. Each plan will have different coverage limits and conditions, some of which may be incredibly limiting. Weigh the options and see if credit card insurance is right for you or if you need separate insurance with better coverage.
Delays, cancellations, and severe weather patterns can be incredibly stressful, especially if you’re traveling with family or on a tight deadline. Do your best to find ways to relax and alleviate stress during long waits. Consider occupying your time by listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. Many people bring a portable game system to unwind while traveling. Always stay hydrated and nourished, as an empty stomach is a great way to add unneeded stress.
Very few trips happen exactly to plan. The best thing you can do for yourself is be ready for the unexpected. Disruptions happen, but they’re all part of the journey, so embrace them as much as you can. Staying informed and keeping on top of changes will allow you to stay flexible, making a huge difference in your travel experience. Even if everything seems to be going wrong, make the most of the situation.