Heavy snowfall, thick fog and unforgiving hurricanes. These are things we usually see on the news while we’re all huddled up safe and warm at home. But when they coincide with our travel dates, weather conditions frequently lead to flight delays and cancellations, raining on our parades and on the airport runways.
There’s no doubt such crises are a bummer, but being prepared for them will help you avoid complications and resume regular programming pronto. And, since flight tickets make up the bulk of travel expenses, one of the most pressing question on every stranded traveller’s mind would be: will I be compensated for this?
The catch with flight compensations
One of the biggest misconceptions is that an airline will compensate for such glitches monetarily. Reality check: most airlines don’t, because bad weather is considered to be an unavoidable circumstance that is beyond their control, unlike situations like aircraft maintenance or inadequate staff.
However, there are cases where this rule does not apply. For instance, if your flight was delayed as a result of a previous flight being affected by bad weather, you’re clear!
Typically, the course of action is to reroute passengers and provide “care and assistance” for delays exceeding a given time period. This refers to free F&B and even hotel accommodation for overnight delays, in the form of airport vouchers or claimable expenditures.
But don’t take our word for it—this is just the general rule of thumb. The airline policies and country regulations will have more clarity, which brings us to point one.
1. Keep your airline’s policy and destination regulations handy
Exceptions to the above are common, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution across airlines and destinations. For example, some contracts of carriage stipulate that passengers affected by delays of two hours and more—due to bad weather or not—can receive food and drink, international calls, hotel accommodation, and even airport transfers to get there.
Because your airport personnel may not have perfect knowledge of the fine print, always keep a PDF copy handy. Knowing your rights will help you make a stronger case and not settle for anything less. Keep in mind that in some cases, accepting an airline voucher immediately renders your entitlements ineffective.
While monetary compensation for such flight delay is rare, it doesn’t hurt to use a flight delay compensation calculator to make sure, or enlist a claims service to follow up and get the job done.
2. Don’t depend on the ticket counter to find alternative flights
After verifying your entitlements to make your delay as comfortable as possible, it’s time to go into problem-solving mode. There’s no escaping the havoc of long waiting times and snaking lines of frantic passengers, but here are some tips to make it bearable.
Check out alternative flights while you’re queueing to have yours rebooked.
While in line, look up flight statuses for the rest of the day on the departure and arrival screens, so you don’t get rebooked on another flight that’s prone to cancellation. You can also use flight tracking apps to suss out your options, so you don’t wait till you get to the counter to decide.
Know the numbers to call so you can skip the queue.
Calling the airline’s phone number directly is sometimes more efficient than waiting in line for an agent. Better yet, use an international number to avoid the high traffic these call centres get from hundreds of affected passengers. This will connect you to a customer service officer more promptly.
3. Make use of your loyalty privileges
That loyalty program you’ve been painstakingly chalking up miles on? Those aren’t just great for redeeming reward flights—they can also get you “special treatment” in these sticky incidents.
For starters, passengers who have attained a tier status usually have a dedicated phone number for flight issues like delays and cancellations. You’re pretty much guaranteed a quicker response.
Alternatively, you can go to the airline lounges and seek assistance from the agents there, away from the crowds at the gates. They tend to be more experienced and will have more time to provide a personalised service recovery experience.
Not an elite member on any airline program? The credit card company you’re with could be just as much a lifesaver. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gives cardholders access to airport lounges too.
4. Avoid getting caught in a delay or cancellation in the first place
Prevention is better than cure, and even though typhoons and thunderstorms are ‘acts of God’ that we have no agency over, there are preemptive measures we can take to dodge them.
When booking flights, opt for non-stop itineraries to minimise the chances of delays, and avoid the last flights of the day so you don’t get stuck at an airport overnight. Sign up for flight status messaging services on sites like Flightaware.com, and stay on top of things with real-time updates and flight tracking.
Most travellers find out about flight incidents caused by bad weather at the airport, but the clue may have already arrived in their email inboxes days before departure. Airlines monitor weather conditions religiously, and in the time that they worsen to a “no-fly” status, passengers may receive a notification and an offer to be rebooked at no additional cost.
Sure, there’s a chance things will all work out. But if you’d rather be safe than sorry, it pays to take up the offer!
Get added assurance during mishaps
Flight delays and cancellations send travellers into a panic, fretting about where they would crash for the night and if they now have to fork out extra money for a new flight.
Because these events affect hundreds and thousands of travellers at a go, policies and regulations are often limited in liability, and we wouldn’t bank on them to stay protected. It helps if their terms are favourable, but you’re better off bulking up with a travel insurance plan that’ll keep you calm and composed through the frenzy.