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6 Tips for Flying During Winter Weather

Travel Weather Delays

Danny Lawson/AP Photos

En español | 'Tis the season for winter weather to mess up even the best-laid flight plans of experienced travelers. And while nothing can be done to stop a snowstorm headed for your point of departure or destination, there are some tricks to minimize the chances it will happen to you.  

Fly early

It's the number one rule of flying. Delays compound throughout the day so it is worth getting up before the sun to board the day's first flight, which is less likely to be delayed than a later one. Plus, if it is delayed or canceled, you will have more same-day rerouting options than if your original flight was scheduled in the afternoon or at night.

Avoid midwest or northeast connections 

Cities such as Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Detroit are all airline hubs that see thousands of flights a day. They also average many more inches of snow per year than connecting hubs such as Atlanta, Phoenix or Dallas. Be like the birds, and fly south. You will be less likely to experience weather-related delays.

Don't make close connections

It's critical during winter months to give yourself more time between connecting flights. If you have a choice of booking the connection in under an hour or over an hour, go for more time. Consider that even getting everyone off a flight takes more time when winter weather gear is involved, and flight take-offs can get delayed for weather-related reasons such as deicing wings or plowing runways.

Check airline weather policies

By law, airlines are required to offer monetary vouchers only if you’re bumped off a flight due to overbooking — not due to weather. However, most major airlines offer some kind of refund or change/cancellation waiver in the event of a weather cancellation. Watch the weather in the days before your flight so you can reschedule even before you get to the airport. If your airline has a no-fee policy for changes, like Southwest, you’ll be able to change to an earlier or next-day flight and avoid the crush of other rerouters. 

Be nimble

If your flight on one carrier is canceled, you’ll probably be rebooked to the next flight with the same carrier if space is available. But you should know what options there are on other carriers so that if there’s a seat available, you can ask your original carrier to endorse your ticket to the other. 

Know the stats

Some airlines have better statistics than others when it comes to on-time departures and arrivals. You can check the record on flights you are considering at the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Statistics.

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