How to save yourself from holiday travel nightmares
The collapse of Southwest Airlines’ scheduling systems continues through Wednesday as the airline struggles to recover operations, canceling more than 2,500 flights today. The travel nightmare began before the Christmas weekend with airlines delaying 8,425 and canceling 5,200 across the country, even at airports far from heavy winter storms and continuing into the week before New Year’s Eve.
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Thousands of flights canceled and delayed at US airports
Brutal below-freezing temperatures, high winds, rain and snow are battering the Midwest, the East Coast and as far west as Washington State. FlightAware’s MiseryMap is lit up like a Christmas tree with massive delays at major hubs across the United States, still and largely centered on Southwest Airlines.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES ISSUES SECOND APOLOGY AND ANNOUNCES RESOURCES FOR CANCELLATIONS, REFUNDS AND LOST BAGGAGE
Stop thinking an overwhelmed airline is going to help you – take matters into your own hands
I helped a friend by tapping into US reward miles and using these tools to drive him home from El Paso, Texas. He reported queues of hundreds of people at the South West counter and waiting on hold for hours without a human answering his call.
That’s when I turned to these tools below to get it out in a few hours of distress. He has already returned home having booked a few flights through Phoenix Airport (PHX) and landed at a nearby airport about a 30-45 minute drive from his home airport.
TYRUS BLASTS BIDEN ADMIN’S RESPONSE TO SOUTHWEST AIRLINES DEFAULT: NO HELP WHEN AMERICANS ARE IN TROUBLE
Rental cars are sold out
Passengers at some airports remain stranded as car rental options and alternative transportation options have started to sell out. Whichever airline you book, arming yourself with these essential tools before heading to the airport will help you if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT DIVERSED TO MILWAUKEE DUE TO ‘POTENTIAL MECHANICAL ISSUE’ AMID CANCELLATION CHAOS
5 essential travel tools to use if your flight is canceled
Canceled flight ? These tools can help you catch the next flight while others are waiting in line and going nowhere.
Mobile site VolsDepuis.com
Bookmark this site flightfrom.com on your phone to see all routes and scheduled flights from each airport. Knowing this can help rebook when agents at airline ticket counters see limited options. It seems counter-intuitive to consider flying further from your desired destination, especially when airlines and ticketing sites don’t present remote routes.
Backtracking to cities can offer a free seat on air travel that zigzags to a more distant airport and still gets you where you want to go faster than waiting for traditional routes to open. Being able to pull together information about an unconventional itinerary that involves more than one airline is one of the most powerful benefits of flightfrom.com.
Flight Board app
The Flight Board app helps you track delayed and canceled flights. Most valuable is how it shows which flights are still operating from an airport you’re in when yours is delayed or cancelled.
This helps you understand what other flights are operating to take you to your destination. Consider taking a screenshot of a photo of available flights for when you negotiate a recovery flight. Click to get the Flight Board app for iOS and Android.
The ExpertFlyer site displays a huge inventory of flights that the airlines hide from you. Frequent flyers use it as a must-have subscription that reveals more than any airline wants you to know. The thing is, this tool alone can help you direct an airline representative to available flights that they might not even see.
I particularly like a feature that lets you click for additional flight status information that reveals a log of each flight. On one occasion a gate agent told me after a flight was canceled that it was weather related and she couldn’t help me.
ExpertFlyer then allowed me to show the real data proving the flight was canceled for « operational » reasons with no mention of the weather. Yes, I received a hotel voucher that paid for the night until my pick-up flight took off first thing in the morning.
ExpertFlyer has a free seat alert feature, and the real full working version is a paid monthly or yearly subscription which for me pays for itself in spades. When it comes to free online apps and services of any value, if you get a valuable product for free, then you are the product. ExpertFlyer can be found here.
Get a quick recap of their application in the video below.
LiveATC Air Traffic Control radio app
The LiveATC app started as a fun way to hear air traffic control speak from the cockpit. Today, it can be one of the most essential recovery tools when delays start to target your trip.
Find your city, then choose the airport and land channel for your departure. You will often hear exactly why your flight is delayed. And in some circumstances, you’ll hear the canceled flight before it’s announced in the cabin or flashed on the airline’s app.
The advantage of spotting problems before the masses can help you access the few seats still available on subsequent flights to get you to your destination. LiveATC is here.
ITA Matrix Flight Search
The ITA Matrix site displays all flights available for sale on all airlines at that time. You cannot buy a ticket here, just inform yourself. It is best to buy a plane ticket directly from the airline you plan to travel with. What works well here is that it will show you available flights to your destination for sale available in real time.
It shows other airlines that might be a better flight recovery option if your flight is abandoned. Airlines prefer to accommodate you on a later flight on the same airline aircraft to save money. The thing is, you can often work your way into an airline confirming a competitor’s travel to solve a failure that rests on their shoulders. Search flights on ITA Matrix here.
ELAINE CHAO WARNS OF MORE REVIEW AFTER ‘TOTAL NIGHTMARE’ OF AIRLINES AT CHRISTMAS
Pro flight tips
- Book tickets on larger planes when available. The flight of larger aircraft that become aircraft used on international routes is rarely cancelled.
- Airline lounges offer better help with rebookings. Purchase a day pass if you are unable to reach an agent or renew your ticket online with the airline’s app.
- Avoid checking bags to give you maximum flexibility. If you find a flight on another airline to get you where you want to go, airlines don’t always transfer checked baggage to other carriers.
- Listen to the LiveATC app control tower from your airport during a delay to find out how your flight is being handled by air traffic controllers on the ground. You will know how to book before everyone else.
Have you tried any of these tools? Let us know if you were successful in the comments below.
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