Even with storms, however, airlines try to fly as many flights as possible and sometimes you get lucky.
However, when you are one of the lucky ones whose flight is operating while others are being canceled, or if you are booked on one of the first days after a big storm, it doesn’t mean you can act like it’s business as usual.
Here are six tips to help keep your trip from becoming an after-the-storm weather casualty.
1. Show up at the airport early. I cannot stress this one enough. When airlines cancel flights they don’t bump people on future flights to deal with all the stranded people.
On the other hand, this will mean the standby lists are long for the next several days. And, those boilerplate reminders about checking in promptly and being at the gate 30 minutes prior to departure — these are the times airlines really mean it.
During a recent snow storm in Boston our agency rebooked five people from a canceled flight to the first available flight later that day. But someone got busy at work, all of them took a cab together to the airport. They arrived a little late. When they got to the gate, their seats had been given away to standby travelers.
2. If you’re connecting, don’t dawdle. A boarding pass does not mean airlines will hold a flight. Airlines strive to keep as many flights as they can on-time. Which means, if they can close the door 10 minutes prior to departure with or without all confirmed passengers on the plane, they will. And, again, with so many standbys, whether it’s fair or not, people at the gate do often get priority over a late connecting passenger.
3. Consider packing food instead of waiting to buy it at the airport. With a number of stranded passengers, I often notice that lines are longer and tempers are shorter at most restaurants and take-out counters.
4. Only take carry-on. Canceled and delayed flights stress the system. There’s more than a normal chance of having your bag go astray.
If you must gate-check due to an over-crowded flight, be sure to remove valuables from your bag before handing it over to the airline.
5. Charge your phone and/or laptop and bring your charger. Even if your flight is scheduled to operate normally, things can change rapidly. You want to be as prepared as possible for potential flight, hotel and/or ground transportation changes. Plus, having your charger handy allows you to keep using your device if there’s a delay at the airport.
6. Bring extra patience. Both crews and planes can end up in the wrong place after a storm. So, even if your plane is at the gate and the weather has cleared, the flight crew might be delayed somewhere. In addition, if an airport reopens after any length of closure, there may be traffic jams on the runway. Remind yourself, a delay of an hour or two beats camping out at the airport any day.