When a Hurricane Disrupts Your Travel
Hurricane Sandy is expected to wreak havoc along the East Coast over the next few days. For travelers, it's already a nightmare because thousands of flights have been canceled.
Last year when the earthquake in Japan disrupted people's travel plans, I turned to travel expert Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, to get her advice. I thought those tips would be worth sharing again to help travelers whose flights have been canceled or who might be stranded as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
1. Start by learning your rights. If your flight is canceled due to weather, natural disaster or anything not within the airline's control, you're only entitled to a refund for the canceled portion of your trip. Of course, it never hurts to ask for more (hotel or food voucher, a waiver of fees for booking a new flight). You have more rights if it's the airline's fault that your flight is canceled or delayed, Banas says.
2. Whenever you get an airline, hotel or other agent on the phone who promises you something (such as a full refund), get the person's full name and direct line. If you don't seal the deal during that call, you risk getting a different agent -- and a different response -- if you call back.
3. Don't give up if a customer-service representative denies your request. Thank him for his time and call back later. You may get a more favorable response if you speak with another agent. If your travel plans are disrupted because of a disaster, it may pay to wait to contact the airline to give it time to develop a response to the situation.
4. If all else fails, tweet. Some airlines respond well to customer questions and complaints on Twitter. Just don't be belligerent, Banas warns. For more on using Twitter to voice your dissatisfaction, see How to Get Airlines to Respond to Your Complaints.
If you are stranded due to a cancellation ...
Sign up to receive flight alerts on your cell phone or vie e-mail. You can sign up at your airline's Web site or at AvoidDelays.com. If you're at the airport when you receive a delay or cancellation notice, head to the nearest ticket counter to be the first in line to get a seat on another flight.
Take advantage of free assistance. Travel insurance company Travel Guard is offering free assistance to U.S. and Canadian travelers affected by Hurricane Sandy. It will help travelers who call (866) 644-6811 with flight rebooking, hotel booking, emergency cash coordination and emergency medical assistance.
Find a hotel room by using sites such as Expedia, GetARoom.com or Hotels.com. If you don’t have Internet access, your next-best choice is to head to the baggage-claim area and check the hotel board. Or you can phone GetARoom’s call center at 800-468-3578.