Winter can be a fickle mistress. You’ve bought your tickets to travel home for the holidays or to a sunny local, and BOOM, snowmageddon happens. Suddenly, your world goes into a tailspin as you scramble to fix the problem mother nature started. Don’t fret, we’re going to make sure you little globetrotters get to your destination with these helpful tips for Avoiding Winter Flight Problems!
When I was still a call center agent in a travel company, the call volume is usually high starting from the last few weeks of November until the first few weeks of January. Why? Well, the traffic is not all because of Christmas and New Year itinerary bookings; but also because during these times, bulks of customers call to change and/or cancel their flights due to heavy flurries and some other issues related to the winter season.
As a customer, regardless if you booked your flight directly from the airline’s website or a travel agency, keep in mind that speaking to a customer service representative to make changes or perhaps cancel your flight due to weather-related reasons will not only take one minute of your time. Therefore, to avoid waiting for an hour for someone to answer you and another hour for your concern to be resolved, take note of these tips on how to avoid distress when travelling amidst the inconvenient winter snow.
#1: Be vigilant.
Preparing for a future travel does not end after booking your flight. Especially when travelling during winter, it is your responsibility to always be knowledgeable regarding weather updates and the current status of your flight. Remember that heavy flurries mean low visibility, which most of the time leads to flight delays and/or cancellations. Hence, if you are not the type of person who loves to sit at the airport for hours (who would want it, anyway?), then follow the next tip.
#2: Either rebook your flight for free or ask for a full refund.
If you think travelling on an earlier or later date is a good option, then call the airline/travel agency immediately to have your flight changed without paying additional fees. However, there’s a catch. Rebooking your flight for free is only possible when the airline has already issued a travel advisory. Sometimes, even if the news already says it is not good to travel at a particular date but the airline did not issue a travel advisory yet, then making changes to your itinerary will be at your own expense. Furthermore, the ‘change’ in your flight only means changes in the date and time, and not to the origin or destination, even if it’s a nearby airport.
Otherwise, if you decide not to go at all, then ask if a full refund is possible. If yes, then that’s good news. But do not be too confident; not all airlines are generous when it comes to processing a refund. Most of them will just give you a flight credit. Meaning, in cases of full cancellation, the amount you have paid can be used for another flight within a year from the original date you have booked the cancelled flight.
Sounds tricky? To put it simply, say you have booked your original flight on December 7, 2014 but decide to cancel; you will be given the chance to book another flight using the amount you have paid (credit) and you must travel on or before December 7, 2015. Of course, you are required to pay any difference in the rate of the new fare.
#3: The Power of Void!
I will tell you a secret. For instance, you have booked your flight on December 7, 2014. You are given roughly 23 hours to cancel your flight for ANY REASON and have a full refund even if your flight is non-refundable. In the airline industry, this is called void. Meaning, you have to call the airline/travel agency before midnight the following day you have booked the flight to cancel it. But then again, there are qualifications. The flight should not have commenced yet and the cancellation must be at least two hours before the flight.
In addition to the tips mentioned above, you must also arrive at the airport at least two hours before the flight (for domestic travel) and three hours before for international travel. This is true especially when travelling during winter. Lastly, it is not advisable to have an online check-in if you are flying on a snowy day. If you have checked-in online but found out, upon arriving at the airport, that your flight is delayed or cancelled, then the process of asking for a free flight change or cancellation gets even lengthier.
So now, like He-Man, YOU HAVE THE POWER! Remember, nothing is more important than the health and safety of you and others, so please review your plans with this in mind before travelling. Also, the people that you speak to at these travel providers are humans, similar to you, so please treat them as you would want to be treated. As my Dad used to say, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”