Irene cancels 6000 flights–what to do?

Irene is coming to the world’s busiest air region. Its already chaos. New York port authority will close all 5 airports to arriving domestic and intn’l passenger flights beginning at noon Saturday. Across the east coast, carriers are scrambling to cancel flights

  • American Airlines has canceled 235 flights for Saturday so far. It will shut down its Washington operations for 24 hours starting at noon EDT on Saturday 
  • Amtrak has cancelled flights. 
  • Delta Air Lines said it was canceling 1,300 of its 16,500 flights systemwide from Saturday through Monday. This includes all flights on Sunday to and from New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, and New Jersey’s Newark.
  • JetBlue Airways scrapped nearly 900 flights through Monday, while moving about 50 aircraft out of New York and Boston areas to cities outside the path of the hurricane. That did not stop them tweeting today: JetBlue means business. Introducing #BluePass; three months of unlimited travel for Boston or LA / Long Beach customers Damn autocued tweets! Bad timing
  • Qantas will be impacted with QF 107 and 108 to and from NYC
  • Southwest expects to cancel some 400 flights along the eastern seaboard through Monday. AirTran expects to cancel approximately 300 during the same time period. Customers should contact the airline on which they are booked for travel (Southwest Reservations (800) 435-9792, or AirTran Reservations (800) 247-8726), or look for updated travel advisories and reaccommodation tools on their respective carrier’s web site: Southwest Airlines; or AirTran Airways 
  • United has cancelled 2300 flights
  • U.S. Airways Group cited “significant” flight reductions in the Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston areas with 1,166 flights cancelled for Saturday and Sunday, 

What to do:
Stay Calm.  Getting stressed wont help.

If you aren’t at the airport, don’ t go!  If its closed to flights sitting at the airport is an awful place to be and dont count on getting into the lounges.

If you already hold a reservation. Relax! Dont jam the switchboards. You will  be stressed out hanging on for hours!  Generally, the airline policies will usually allow you to cancel or change your flights without penalty and most give you a week to do it. Experts recommend not cancelling a flight -instead wait for the airline do it. eg United’s policy is  below. Though I do hope they dont penalise people by charging them higher fares if someone has to change flights.

Be warned getting a new flight could take ages. With 6000 flights canceled, thats hundreds of thousands of seats. By the time services  resume, those people will be all trying to get on. If you are a high status frequent flyer, you will be usually looked after better.

This is the time to make sure you have travel insurance and you know what it says. Because this is “an act of God” (I hate that term), airlines are not  responsible for your accommodation, food, clothes, phone calls or even toiletries. You may get a meal voucher but that is highly unlikely.

Keep your mobile phone and laptop fully charged. You never know when you will lose power. Switch off all apps on your smartphone to reduce power usage

Have toiletries, a change of underwear, socks and a new shirt at least in your hand luggage (I dont check luggage in so I have all my clothes with me)

Grab some snacks and water (NB you cant take water through security in USA or internationally but you can fill up with water at water foundations and taps). Muesli bars, sultana packets, the NZ One square meal are all excellent resources at this time.

Good Luck. I am driving through Western Australia today

Customers currently en route:

  • May make one change to their return trip. Rules and restrictions regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay requirements have been waived. Origin and destination cities must remain the same. Booking class restrictions may apply.
  • Revised travel must be completed within 7 days of original travel date.

Customers who have not begun travel (wholly unused tickets):

  • May make one change to their travel plans without change fees or advance purchase requirement for the *same* itinerary. Changes must be made within 7 days of waiver travel dates. Booking class restrictions may apply.
  • For a *new* itinerary, one change may be made anytime within ticket validity without change fees.
  • All rescheduled travel (same or new itinerary) may be subject to higher fares if it does not meet original rule and booking code restrictions.

Do make sure the cancellation or change is made properly. Stressed agents can make mistakes at this time. Another reason to wait until the lines are less busy.

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