7 Lifesaving Travel Lessons Learned from Sandy

Stranded by Sandy

Hurricane Sandy essentially halted all travel along America’s East Coast. Flights were grounded and scores of travelers were affected locally and globally. FlightAware counted 8,962 flights cancelled as a result of the storm. The risk-modeling firm EQECAT predicts the storm’s economic damages may be from 10-20$ Billion in cost. The storm affected not just travelers departing from the region, but also those booked on flights spanning across the globe. In departure cities as distant as Hong Kong, hotels were booked to capacity for several nights by travelers unable to get back home. As we move into the season of winter travel, when storms become more prevalent, there are 7 things you can do to avoid some of the worst case scenarios that many business travelers found themselves stuck in during Sandy.

Negotiate for Solutions With Your Airline

During the fall out of the storm most Airlines offered the chance to make itinerary changes free of charge. They even went so far as to offer a no hassle refund policy. An Associated Press news report says business travelers should “keep in mind that airlines usually only waive this [itinerary-change] fee once. Be certain you want to change your itinerary before you lock it in.” Or Else, it could cost up to $150 to make a second change. Travelers who decided to cancel a reservation were offered a flight voucher for future travels but were allowed to ask for cash instead, according to the AP report. Although many airlines do not make a policy of covering the cost of hotel stays for incidences of weather-related delay, extreme circumstances can change the tide in your favor. The United Airlines cancellation policy states that when delays are “not within United’s control,” that they may offer food and beverages, or meal vouchers, and “we may be able to give you a distressed passenger rate voucher for a nearby hotel.”

Purchase Appopriate Travel Insurance

You can purchase  a travel insurance policy that covers any lost monies if your flight is cancelled due to severe weather and one that provides 24/7 emergency travel services. Many families and business travelers choose Travel Guard’s Gold plan

Use a Top Tier Travel Agent

Use an Executive Air Travel Concierge

If you did not book through a travel agent and your flight has been cancelled, your airport has shut down, and you absolutely must get out on the next flight, it’s time to call an A-Team of travel concierge experts. Some of these high level travel professionals can work miracles for you.  Their fees vary but average out at a $150.

Find Out Alternate Seat Availability-FAST!

Scores of travelers who decided to phone their airlines during the whole sandy mess were put on hold for hours…and more often than not they did not get the help they required. The only real data an airline agent gives you is what is displayed on their computers.  This info can offer an incomplete picture during times of natural disaster or unusual circumstance. There are, however some recently available tools out there for you.  These can help you direct the airline agent exactly where and what to look for. One of the most popular free tools is FlightStats. Sign up, Log in and  navigate  to the “Flights” drop-down menu, select  “Flight Availability” and you can find the seats you need on flights out of the airport where you’re stuck.

Call An Airline’s Overseas Reservation Number

As major airlines grounded thousands of flights, numerous business travelers were unable to reach a human being by phone (even at the airline’s elite desk); others were automatically rerouted on alternative flights that had already been cancelled.  When an airline’s U.S. phone lines are busy, try calling in to the flight company’s desk abroad—for example in London or Frankfurt. United airlines, for example, provides these contact numbers for its reservations agents in Europe. (Don’t forget to dial in Using Skype-much cheaper)!

Get Techy With It

Now that you have an alternate number to call, that doesn’t mean it will be any easier to reach a an operator and go through the whole process of itinerary rescheduling.  According to FlightAware, often the best way to make flight changes is on airline websites, since “call centers are typically overwhelmed during major events.”

Try posting a Twitter update and concerns regarding any itinerary changes or rebooking needs.  When you do this make sure that you mention the twitter handle of the airline you’re using. There are times when this can produce a speedy response from customer service rather than just trying to call it in. If you do try this, be aware it’s not a guaranty of moving forward with your route.

special thanks: wendy perrin, cntraveler.com, image: matrixphotos.com

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