Good Luck With Your Travels During the Storm!

I’m home in DC, not much looking forward to the coming storm, not planning to fly Monday through Thursday so my travel plans aren’t being interrupted.

But I did try to log on to my power company’s website, to no avail.

And according to the problem isn’t me:

Not very encouraging when the power company’s website is down before the storm.

But at least I’m not flying, because today is already bloody. The largest number of proactive cancellations were on United, focused primarily on the New York area but also Washington Dulles. In total and across all airlines over 1200 U.S. flights have been cancelled so far today. Tomorrow there will be many, many more cancellations.

Here are the re-accommodation policies of various US airlines.

Of course, in order to change your plans you need two things: available alternative flights, and to be able to get through to your airline.

With planes generally full, there aren’t a ton of seats to rebook onto. It helps to research ahead of talking to an agent so you know exactly what flights you want to get on, and that those flights have availability, using tools like FlightStats and like Expertflyer.

Telephone hold times for general members are getting fairly long. And even much of the things that elite agents can do, when they need to get help themselves, can take awhile. At about 6am Eastern I was on the phone with American, helping someone overseas get a ticket re-issued. The phone was picked up right away by an Executive Platinum agent. But that agent had to spend about 15 minutes holding just to reach the rate desk, which was necessary to know how much in additional taxes to collect (answer: $48.15).

Perhaps the one good thing that came out of the debacle of multi-hour hold times with United back in March when they trnasitioned their computer reservation systems is well-developed strategies for getting through on the phone when telephone queues are maddeningly long. At that time I had great success avoiding telephone hold times by calling United in Australia (cheap via Skype, and just make note of the time difference because the phone number doesn’t operate 24 hours a day).

Another technique is that you can go online and tell United to call you back instead of waiting on hold.

Good luck to everyone traveling in the Northeast and Mid-atlantic over the next couple of days!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. May all be safe, airlines and staff and passengers all, as the systems are brought to their new limits. Thanks for the proper perspective and tone.

  2. Home in DC. Yesterday I went to target and giant for routine shopping. The isle of bottled water and flash light is like got robbed. lol.

  3. I’m in the eye of the storm (if there was an eye, I guess) so for me this is a test of the data plan on my phone. Seems like a storm “game changer” for communications — IF they work. Do they when power goes down and everyone tries to get on? I’ll report back in 36 hours. If I can.

  4. Gary, I’m in Montgomery County, MD. Hope you have better luck with Dominion than we usually have with PEPCO. 🙂

  5. Just got out of BOS on the last UA flight (a non-scheduled service). ExpertFlyer was a great disappointment. Many flights were missing. Those that were shown had inaccurate availabilty counts (compared to “expert mode”). In the end, I just used to see what was there and then called in. All the great display features of ExpertFlyer were useless because you could not trust the data.

  6. From what I can see “on the ground,” there is far less damage in the Philly area from Sandy than what was predicted — and from what the talking heads and politicians are saying in the media. Away from the coast, the storm seems to be pretty much a bust. I don’t think there will be any significant weather problems on Tuesday in Philly.

    The problem is that the powers-that-be have to recognize this, and start reopening things. Right now, for no reason, they even have the highways all shut down.

  7. @Biggles209: At least for rebooking in the aftermath, availability just seems to be shifting too fast that what an agent can see is the best you can really count on.

    In other news, I for one have adopted @Gary’s approach to things when life gives you a force majeure events.

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