From winter storms to system outages, air travel has been challenging so far this year. So what’s a traveler to do when faced with the growing likelihood that his or her flight won’t leave on time — or at all? Start planning now for delays or cancellations by staying up to date on flight and weather information.
If you do arrive at the airport and find your flight is canceled or delayed, handling the disruption can be much less upsetting when you know your rights as a passenger and resources for rebooking. Here are a few tips that can help make air travel during these chaotic times as smooth as possible.
Before your trip
1. Reduce or optimize connections. The more connections you have, the more chances there are for cancellations or delays. If it makes financial sense, book direct flights whenever possible — those extra dollars you spend may end up saving you a lot of hassle. And if your itinerary choices include different connection-airport options, choose those in warm-weather cities that are less susceptible to winter mishaps.
2. Book flights earlier in the day with a direct carrier. Zach Griff, senior airline reporter at the website The Points Guy, recommends travelers book earlier flights because “once a few cancellations happen, the domino effect means a higher percentage of later flights will be delayed or canceled.” He also suggests booking with a direct carrier (such as United or American) rather than a regional partner (United Express or American Eagle, for example). The parent airlines tend to get priority for staffing and airport access.
3. Avoid checking luggage. Changing a flight at the last minute will sometimes mean checked baggage gets left behind, trailing your new itinerary. Bringing just a roller bag small enough to use as a carry-on item makes you more nimble to grab a replacement flight, not to mention providing a change of clothes should you get stuck somewhere.