Winter storms, COVID: How to make last-minute flight changes

Dec 14, 2021, 2:00 PM | Updated: Dec 15, 2021, 5:46 am
FILE - Travelers use the self-service kiosk to check in and pay for luggage at the American Airline...

FILE - Travelers use the self-service kiosk to check in and pay for luggage at the American Airlines terminal, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Miami. Making last-minute flight changes can be an enormous stressor amid an already stressful holiday travel season. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)

(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)

Rerouting, rebooking, diverting, you name it. Making last-minute flight changes can be an enormous stressor amid an already stressful holiday travel season.

Hundreds of flights have already been canceled last-minute due to pandemic-related staffing shortages. Perhaps a coronavirus variant surge forces you to cancel your trip. Or what if a winter snowstorm prevents you from taking off?

No matter the reason, be prepared for last-minute flight changes or cancellations this year.

FINDING LAST-MINUTE FLIGHTS

If your flight is delayed or canceled, here’s how to quickly get on another:

LOOK TO OTHER AIRPORTS

Many major cities are served by multiple airports, so broaden your airport search. John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City might be backed up from a blizzard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean nearby airports Newark Liberty International or LaGuardia are out of commission.

And look beyond the major airlines. JSX is a semiprivate jet service, but fares often aren’t much more than commercial airfares.

USE BOOKING TOOLS

Even if you’re accustomed to booking via an individual airline’s website, tools like Google Flights will allow you to quickly compare routes across multiple airlines, nearby airports and selected dates. Booking tools may help surface an available route you’d otherwise miss.

SEARCH FOR ONE-WAY, INDIVIDUAL TICKETS AND DIRECT FLIGHTS

Don’t limit your options by searching for round-trip tickets. In a pinch, book a one-way ticket and find the return flight later.

And, if you’re traveling with others, rather than searching for group tickets, consider searching for individual ones — especially if your group is comfortable splitting up. If one flight has only four seats left but another flight has two, then a search for your party of six wouldn’t show any available tickets. But if some folks are OK being left behind and catching up later, you improve your odds of getting to your destination, period.

Fly direct when possible. If it isn’t, try to connect through destinations that are less likely to be affected by bad winter weather (San Diego over Chicago, for example). While the flight with the layover might be cheaper, it might not be worth it if weather issues in the layover city are the reason you can’t take off.

HOW TO GET YOUR MONEY BACK

Here are ways to improve your chances of getting a refund for flights interrupted by winter storms or COVID-19:

USE A CREDIT CARD WITH TRAVEL INSURANCE

One of the best ways to get money back for canceled flights (or to get reimbursed for additional costs incurred during delays) is booking with a credit card that offers travel insurance.

Exact terms vary by card, but you can typically expect coverage for flights affected by severe weather. And usually, this type of insurance will cover not just the flight itself, but ancillary expenses, such as an additional hotel night to take a next-day flight.

PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE

If your credit card doesn’t include travel insurance as a benefit, consider purchasing coverage separately. Look closely at the terms and conditions as they vary significantly between plans.

TURN TO SOCIAL MEDIA

Technology can help you. Many airlines are embracing social media as a customer service tool, and account managers may even be equipped to directly help passengers rebook, issue flight credits and more.

If the delay is an airline’s fault, you might get compensation. For example, Southwest Airlines’ October 2021 meltdown cost the company $75 million , according to its third quarter 2021 earnings report. Much of that figure was attributed to customer refunds and “gestures of goodwill,” as Southwest offered vouchers to many customers who were affected.

OTHER TIPS FOR TRAVELING DURING WINTER STORM SEASON

— Be prepared to stay longer than you intended. Search budget-friendly lodging near the airport before your trip. If your flight gets delayed and you need to stay an extra night, you don’t want to be scrambling to find a room that fits your standards and budget.

— Pack small snacks. Protein bars or nuts are great backups in case you’re stuck in an airport overnight and the restaurants and stores are closed.

— Avoid checking luggage. If there’s an opportunity to board another last-minute flight, you don’t want your luggage packed on a delayed flight to be the one thing holding you back. Carry-on travel allows you to be more nimble. If you do need to check luggage, keep items you can’t go without — like phone chargers and medications — with you.

— Set up flight alerts. Check your flight status before leaving for the airport or, better yet, set up automatic flight updates via text alerts. An early alert might help you avoid arriving at the airport for a canceled flight or give you a jump-start on booking a new flight before other passengers.

THE BOTTOM LINE

You might not think the scramble to make a last-minute flight change will happen to you — until it does. And given the challenges of travel this holiday season, you should be more prepared than ever.

___________________________________

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sally French is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.

RELATED LINK:

NerdWallet: 7 ways tech can help you travel smarter this holiday https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-ways-tech-can-help-you-travel-smarter

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - In this image made from video, Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng speaks in Taipei, Ta...
Associated Press

Taiwan vows to respond to China’s military flight incursions

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s defense minister on Wednesday said the island will respond to incursions into its airspace by Chinese warplanes and drones, but gave no details on specific actions. Responding to questions from legislators, Chiu Kuo-cheng said China’s newly aggressive stance had changed what Taiwan would define as a “first strike” that would […]
1 day ago
Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya delivers a speech at the Warsaw Security ...
Associated Press

Belarus opposition hopeful at Russian setbacks in Ukraine

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Belarus’ opposition leader said Wednesday that she believes Russian military setbacks in Ukraine could shake the hold on power of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. “We have a distracted Russia that is about to lose this war. It won’t be able to prop Lukashenko up with money and military support as in […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armoured vehicle as they drive on a road between Izium and Lyman in Uk...
Associated Press

Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine War

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s presidential office says that at least five civilians have been killed and eight have been wounded by the latest Russian shelling. A statement on Wednesday says Russian troops used six Iranian suicide drones to strike the town of Bila Tserkva in the Kyiv region, leaving one person wounded. The strikes were […]
1 day ago
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalatio...
Associated Press

Top EU official vows to ‘stress test’ pipelines after leaks

BRUSSELS (AP) — The head of the European Union’s executive arm vowed Wednesday to introduce checks on key EU infrastructure, including energy, after the suspected sabotage of natural-gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the damage last week to the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Germany has […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Detained Iranian-American, 85, leaves Iran heading to Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An 85-year-old Iranian-American held by Iran left the country Wednesday for Oman, officials said, after increasing international pressure to free him amid his struggles with poor health. The state-run IRNA news agency published video of Baquer Namazi boarding a Royal Oman air force jet, apparently in Tehran. It said […]
1 day ago
FILE - An Afghan refugee boy carries a bag of mangoes on his shoulder in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday,...
Associated Press

Amnesty: Creditors should provide debt relief to Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — International creditors should provide debt relief to Sri Lanka to alleviate suffering as its people endure hunger, worsening poverty and shortages of basic supplies, Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday. For months, Sri Lanka has been in the grip of a dire economic crisis and the country has defaulted […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Winter storms, COVID: How to make last-minute flight changes