This storm blows, literally…

Hurricane Florence is setting its evil sights on the East Coast of the United States, and the storms effects are expected to be nothing short of catastrophic. Full scale coastal evacuations have already been laid out for South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia and as the storm gains strength, more are expected. Naturally, this puts air travel in serious jeopardy with cancellations rampant up and down the entire Eastern seaboard. If you want to change a flight, cancel a trip or talk to your airline, here are the best practices for avoiding travel hell during Hurricane Florence.

The Rules

  1. Don’t yell, curse or insult any airline employee – ever.
  2. You’re not the only one, far from it, and everyone just wants to get somewhere.
  3. Social media is your friend, use it over phones to contact airlines, hotels. 
  4. Avoid the airport unless your flight specifically says it’s going ahead.
  5. Keep receipts for every expense you incur during Hurricane Florence. 
  6. Avoid long waits by calling your airline’s foreign numbers using Skype. 

September 11-17 Options

Airlines are offering proactive travel waivers and or cancellation options for flights to or from select East Coast airports as early as today, September 11th, ahead of the anticipated landfall of the storm on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. The Hurricane Florence waivers run thru Monday, the 17th. Each airline offers different date specifics, included cities and change options, but if you’re flying to or from:

Asheville, Augusta, Baltimore, Charleston, Charlotte, Charlottesville, Florence, Greenville, Hilton Head, Norfolk, Raleigh, Richmond, Savannah or Washington DC – you’re likely eligible to move your flight up to 14 days away, or some airlines will allow you to cancel your trip entirely.

Here are links to what each airline is currently offering travelers: Air CanadaAlaskaAmerican, Allegiant, DeltaJetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United (way to go, no waiver yet) and WestJet.

Don’t Go To The Airport

The first mistake travelers often make is going to the airport, even when their flight is cancelled. Airline apps, call centers, Twitter, Facebook Messenger and other platforms can handle all the same issues, and allow you to wait to speak to someone in the peace of your home or office, rather than the chaotic, crowded and often irritating airport. Downloading your airline’s mobile app can be a game changer here. These apps can often offer alternative flights without needing to wait or speak to someone and rebook or cancel you automatically. Monitor your flight status in advance directly with the airline and using apps like FlightRadar24, CheckMyTrip or TripIt. If you don’t need to travel during Hurricane Florence, don’t.

Your Rights And Options

There are a few things you can always attempt, which may not be guaranteed, but are always worth a shot if they can help your travels, especially during a hurricane…

  1. Don’t rely on airline accommodations for overnight cancellations. Find a reasonably priced hotel, keep receipts and take it up with the airline later. No guarantees, but reasonable expenses are often met reasonably. Beat the rush by making your own bookings.
  2. Ask for your ticket to be validated on another carrier, if there’s an option that works for you. If Delta is flying but United isn’t, you can ask United to endorse your ticket over to Delta. They may refuse, but they may not.
  3. Check your credit card coverage. Some credit cards cover trip delay or cancellation, and may fill in gaps where the airline won’t. Here’s a list of various cards offering delay coverage, when it kicks in and what you can claim.

Don’t Forget To Cancel Everything Else

If you can’t make it to your destination, don’t forget to also proactively cancel or move any hotel reservations, car rentals or other trip expenses. Even non refundable reservations should be fair game for a refund, or at least a free date change. If you hear no, argue your case and don’t be afraid to politely escalate it. There’s always “thanks for trying”, hang up and call back hoping to speak to someone more helpful or understanding. Worst case, the two magic words “charge back” tend to perk companies up, if you feel inclined to initiate one due to unresponsiveness.

Is Hurricane Florence affecting your travels? Share your story.

Featured image courtesy NASA.