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What to Do if the Winter Storm Impacts Your Holiday Travel


Wind, freezing rain and snow are predicted from the Northwest to the Northeast this week. Forecasters say vast swaths of the Central and Eastern United States may very well be hit with a blast of Arctic air that might ice runways and freeze roadways. Blizzard conditions are predicted for the Central and Northern Plains and Great Lakes regions. Parts of Wyoming will see windchill temperatures drop to 69 and 70 degrees below zero.

And it’s all just in time for the vacation travel rush.

Whether you might be planning to travel by plane or by automobile over the Christmas weekend, you might face delays, cancellations and treacherous conditions.

The weather could create more chaos at airports, which AAA, the car association, said can be “packed” in the course of the holidays. Nearly 7.2 million Americans are expected to fly between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, which is 14 percent greater than last yr and almost as many as in 2019, in accordance with AAA.

Do you have to cancel your trip? What are your options in case your flight is delayed or canceled? Here’s what you might want to know if the vacation storm upsets your travel plans.

If the prospect of getting stuck is just too daunting, many airlines, including United, American Airlines and JetBlue, are offering to rebook passengers on other flights without additional fees — in the event that they are flying to or from areas which are expected to be hit by severe weather.

But first check the main points together with your carrier, because each airline has different parameters on when passengers can reschedule their flights.

In case your flight is canceled, airlines are obligated by federal law to offer a full refund if the passenger requests it, said Scott Keyes, the founding father of Scott’s Low-cost Flights, a service that tracks and emails airfare deals to customers. That is true even when a flight is canceled due to weather.

“It’s still not your fault as a traveler, and you might be still entitled to a full money refund for those who want one,” Mr. Keyes said.

If a flight is “significantly delayed,” airlines can also provide a refund for those who determine to not fly, Mr. Keyes said, though they are usually not required to accomplish that. Airlines define what a “significant delay” means though two or three hours for a domestic flight ought to be a great rule of thumb.

To know what your carrier’s policies are, seek the advice of the Department of Transportation’s online dashboard, which features 10 U.S. airlines with green check marks next to the services they provide when flights are delayed or canceled for reasons that the airline controls, akin to staffing.

In August, the agency said that it’s working on a rule change that may require airlines to refund passengers whose departure or arrival times are delayed by three hours on domestic flights or six hours on international flights.

Mr. Keyes said this may very well be a chance to reap the benefits of the expected chaos. In case your airline is dropping change fees, it might be possible to get on a greater flight than what you originally booked.

Airlines would much relatively keep your money than fork over a refund, so “they may work with you to modify to a greater flight,” he said.

One other tip: You possibly can try calling an airline’s international hotline, not the U.S. number, even when the canceled flight was domestic, he said.

“Most airlines have numbers everywhere in the world,” Mr. Keyes said. “They’ll have agents there whose lines are empty. They’ll all help get you rebooked just the identical.”

Passengers who booked with online travel agencies, like Expedia, may have to work through those agencies for refunds or to make flight changes, he said.

Install a flight tracker app in your phone, or use your airline’s app to observe your flight and arrange alerts so that you just get information as early as possible.

Knowing a flight goes to be delayed and even canceled may also help passengers act quickly, said Kathleen Bangs, a spokeswoman for FlightAware, a flight tracking company.

“You then will be first in line — or first on the phone or in your app — to make arrangements for an additional flight,” she said.

Passengers who turn out to be stranded on the airport can also have the opportunity to barter with airlines for vouchers, Ms. Bangs said, regardless that airlines are usually not required to supply them when weather causes a delay or cancellation.

Ms. Bangs said more airlines are empowering their employees to make decisions on the gate or on the phone to assist customers, a philosophy espoused by Herb Kelleher, the founding father of Southwest, who focused heavily on customer support.

Customer support agents could also be willing to upgrade a stranded passenger’s seat, give them more miles on their mileage plan or provide a hotel voucher even in the event that they are usually not obligated to, Ms. Bangs said.

“They could say, ‘Well it is a weather event so we’re not offering anything,’” she said. But “it never hurts to ask in a polite way.”

There are two reasons your automobile trip may be delayed: heavy traffic and weather.

Even when the weather is obvious in your location, expect congestion, especially on those days when holiday travelers share the road with regular commuters.

About 102 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more from their homes between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, in accordance with AAA. That’s 3.6 million greater than the number of people that drove in the course of the holiday season in 2021 and nearly as many as in 2018, when 102.5 million people hit the roads. (The record was set in 2019, when 108 million people drove between Christmas and Latest Years Day.)

In major metro areas like Latest York City and Los Angeles, travelers could face traffic delays which are twice so long as usual, in accordance with INRIX, a transportation evaluation agency.

In case you can, drive on Christmas Day, said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX.

But when you have got to go away before that, avoid driving between 4 p.m. and seven p.m. on Dec. 23, and between noon and 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, when regular commuters are still expected to be on the road, he said.

“If schedules allow, leave shiny and early or after the afternoon commute,” Mr. Pishue said.

The cold, ice and snow won’t help. In some parts of the country, the warnings about freezing weather are downright frightening.

In parts of Texas, “dangerously cold wind chills” are possible Thursday and Friday, while the Midwest could see blizzard conditions on Thursday.

AAA “strongly recommends drivers pack an emergency kit,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokeswoman for the group.

The kit should include a cellphone charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, reflectors, an ice scraper or snow brush, a shovel, drinking water, extra snacks and food for everybody within the automobile, including pets in the event that they are traveling with you.

Drivers must have warm gloves, clothes, hats and blankets for everybody within the automobile. They also needs to clean their headlights, replace old wiper blades and inspect their tire pressure on their vehicles.

Drivers are also advised not to make use of cruise control in slick conditions and to remain of their lane as much as possible, since there could also be patches of ice between lanes.

“In case you hit a patch of ice and start to skid, try to remain calm and resist the urge to slam on the brakes,” Ms. Diaz said. “As a substitute, look where you would like the automobile to go and steer in that direction.”

Most significantly, she said, “if there may be a blizzard in your path, stay home.”

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