Storm Alex, Other Weather Problems: When to Contact Airlines about Delays, Canceled Flights

  • UPDATE: Tropical Storm Alex is now officially Hurricane Alex – the first hurricane of the 2010 season, as well as the first June hurricane since 1995.

There’s good news and bad news on the weather front: Tropical Storm Alex may yet morph into Hurricane Alex, but it appears as if it is not going to pummel the oil spill areas as had been feared (at least, of this writing).

However, it is going to affect some airports and flights, but once again, airlines are being proactive in letting passengers know about potential problems ahead of time.

Current Air Travel Alerts from Southwest and Continental

These airlines already have issued alerts to passengers, who may want to (or may have to) change their flights (and contact your own carrier if it’s not on the list):

When to Contact Your Airline about Delays, Cancelations

The short answer is, as soon as possible. The first passengers who contact the airline will get first choice of alternate flights, or even any seat at all. We don’t have to tell you that flights are full these days, and “extra seats” are relics of the ancient past (well, if you consider earlier this decade to be the ancient past).

How to Contact Your Airline

As noted, you have to contact your airline immediately to get the alternate flight you want, and the best thing to do is try a multi-pronged approach.

  • At the airport: If the line is long, keep waiting, but get on your cell phone as well
  • Online: Go to the airline’s website – updates will be added to the homepage as needed
  • Direct contact: Call, but be prepared for a long wait
  • Alerts: Sign up for the airline’s alerts, so they can reach you with updated information
  • Know your alternatives: Check on flights to your destinations so you’ll have alternates in mind when you speak to an airline (but there are no guarantees you’ll get your choice)
  • Twitter and Facebook: Check the airline’s social media outlets on Twitter and Facebook for the latest info; carriers have PR people monitoring these accounts and they do respond to questions. If you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, get one
  • Rental cars: In some cases, it might be quicker and easier to drive than fly, but those rental cars will go quickly

Courtesy Really Can Help

We have heard much anecdotal evidence that suggests passengers who are polite get better treatment from gate agents and airline phone reps; anger is understandable, especially if you’ve been waiting in a long airport line for hours, but don’t let it ruin your chance at getting the best alternate flight available.

Agents are only human and – who’d you rather help, Mr. Nice Guy or some jerk?

All Fliers: Stay in Touch with Weather News

Keep up with the latest in storms or any delays by staying connected with the media and outlets like the National Hurricane Center.

Images courtesy NOAA.gov

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Published: June 29, 2010