As anticipated, the projected severity of the Tropical Storm in the Gulf of Mexico has increased, with forecasts calling for not only high winds but a devastatingly destructive amount of water across the Gulf Coast.
Check out this map from the National Hurricane Center with the anticipated amounts of rainfall:
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 25, 2017
Significant amounts of rain (much less a hurricane) can cause systemwide disruptions, so if you’re scheduled to travel in the coming days you’ll want to take precautions, even if you aren’t routing through Texas. Major storms like this will typically put a huge stress on flight operations, with rolling delays and even cancelations in unexpected areas, as airlines can’t get crews and planes to the right locations.
Change your flights for free
At present, dozens of flights have been canceled to/from Houston and Corpus Christi. Given the current forecast, those numbers will almost certainly increase, even if there somehow isn’t major damage (we can all hope).
Airlines started to issue waivers for travel a few days ago, but in some cases they were rather tepid. Delta, for example, was only offering narrow changes for travelers destined for Houston. That’s now been expanded to Austin and Houston, and for travel through Monday. Other airlines have also added cities and modified date ranges, so you’ll want to check out the specifics for your carrier.
In general, the airlines are going to accommodate you if you’re able or willing to move your plans around — after all, they don’t benefit from having cranky passengers stuck in the terminal either. There are nuances to each policy though, so you can see the individual policies on the airline sites.
You can find the current change rules for each airline here:
Keep in mind that as the severity of the storm increases, the parameters of the waiver can change. Given what we’re seeing with the forecast, I wouldn’t be surprised if the date ranges on these waivers are expanded again, at a minimum.
And if you have travel planned to coastal Texas next week, I’d highly recommend rescheduling if you can — even if the airports are functional on Monday/Tuesday, many of these cities are going to be stressed by the demands of the storm, and it will take time to recover. Areas of Corpus Christi may “potentially be uninhabitable for weeks or months.” And Texans who need to evacuate their homes could use those hotel rooms too.
Tips for rebooking
Regardless of the reason for flight cancelations, phone queues can get ugly fast. Given that many people need to rebook at the same time, you might be able to get new plans confirmed more quickly by using an alternate method.
Try the club lounge
Don’t leave this until this weekend, but if the situation changes and you’re already at the airport, start with the lounge agents. They tend to have fewer passengers to deal with than the gate agents, and thus may have more time (and more patience), when it comes to rebooking your flight.
Reach out on social media
I’ve had good luck changing flights by sending direct messages to American via Twitter. Several other airlines have a Twitter presence as well, and while they might not be able to fix your reservation, it’s worth trying:
Avoid the domestic call centers
If you’re willing to spend a few dollars on Skype or Google Voice credit, calling the international call center for an airline can often save you an hour or more of hold time.
Almost all of these call centers have an English-speaking option, but you can also call Australia, or even just Canadian numbers can get you through faster.
- Air Canada international reservations
- American Airlines international reservations
- Delta Air Lines international reservations
- JetBlue international reservations
- United international reservations
- Virgin America international reservations
If you have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish (like, just enough to get through the computer system), you can try the Spanish-speaking numbers. Again, fewer people calling means shorter hold times, and the agents typically speak English as well.
- American Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-633-3711
- Southwest Spanish line: 1-800-VAMONOS
- United Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-426-5561
Be your own advocate
This is maybe more a life philosophy than one specific to travel disruptions, but it holds true — no one cares about you (or your travel) as much as you do.
So be nice, but ask questions, present alternatives, be prepared to book your own hotel rather than waiting in line with a hundred other people for a voucher, and so forth.
If you stand around and wait, you will almost certainly have a worse time than those who are actively finding solutions to the situation.
Check your credit card coverage
If you purchased your tickets with a credit card, you may have some additional protection and benefits when your flight is delayed. Check with your credit card company, or see our list of popular travel cards with good delay coverage.
These cards will often cover your hotel, or the cost of a new flight, and so forth, so it’s good to know both the benefits and the requirements to file a claim.
This is looking to be a VERY serious storm. As I say every time we have a weather event, you want to be as proactive as possible in these situations. Pay attention to your flight, along with the status of your inbound aircraft, and be prepared to react quickly and creatively.
If you have plans to travel to the region, I’d suggest rescheduling now, as it looks like the ground situation is going to be messy at best. And keep in mind that even if you aren’t traveling in, to, or through the storm corridor, your aircraft might be, so you could still be impacted by this storm.
This isn’t a situation you can control, but you can lessen the impact on your life. The best thing to do is pay attention, and be as proactive as you can.
If you’re in the path of the storm, please be safe!