Traveling after Sandy


Travelers on Delta Airlines look at a departure screen Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Detroit. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
October 29, 2012

Face it, you’re stuck. You’re not going anywhere, at least until Hurricane Sandy gets tired of all this wind and rain and fussing about.

As you’ve surely heard, the storm has gummed up transportation systems and services along the Eastern Seaboard. Hundreds of flights have been canceled, including itineraries to destinations where “sandy” refers to the quality of the beaches. Officials have also closed major roads and bridges, and Amtrak and bus lines have halted service.

But you won’t be grounded forever. Really. You’ll make it home or, as flight attendants say over the intercom, to wherever your final destination may be.

For advice on how to rebook and reschedule hurricane-affected trips, we turned to Courtney Scott, senior editor of Travelocity.com. (We also contacted Expedia, but the booking site declined our interview request for this admirable reason: “We’d love to ask your help, if you have a non-urgent issue and can wait to talk to someone, to please call back later so those with critical issues can get help quickly.” The online travel booking company has posted pertinent info on rebooking flights on its Web site.)

How long will I be stuck?

The aftermath and impact of Sandy on travel will last through the end of the week. Expect widespread delays not only on the Eastern Seaboard but also across the U.S. due to a ripple effect caused by the hurricane. If you are stuck somewhere and trying to get back to the New York metro area, for example, you may not be able to get a flights until Thursday, Friday or even later, depending on the carrier. It’s still too early to tell how bad the ripple effect will be.

Should I try to get home or stay put?

Best to follow guidelines set forth by the city or state you’re in. No one should be out on the roads in the midst of a hurricane. If you haven’t already sought shelter in a hotel or a friend’s or family member’s home, it’s better to stay in the airport until the storm passes. Do not go to the airport, though, if you think your flight could be cancelled. It’s better to make alternate plans at home.

What should I do if I’m stranded on the East Coast?

Be proactive. Log on to your carrier’s Web site or call your local carrier directly to find out the latest information on cancellations. Look for your carrier’s waiver code, which you can enter online when rebooking your trip and avoid paying change/cancellation fees or change-of-ticket fees.

Expect long hold times when calling the carrier or hotel. Download mobile apps and stay connected to Twitter to receive information faster than you would calling your carrier or waiting in line at the airport.

When should I rebook a cancelled flight? Will I incur any penalty fees for changing plans?

If your flight is cancelled, nearly all airlines are offering a refund on your flight or will waive change/cancel fees and fare differences for passengers who wish to change their flights. However, that next available flight could be a long way off. Rebook your flight as soon as you can; there will be a huge demand for seats in and out of the affected areas in the coming days after the storm.

I have holiday plans in an area affected by the hurricane. Should I rebook or cancel completely?

It’s too early to tell what impact the damage will have on destinations, so you may want to wait and talk to your hotel before you reschedule. The storm is affecting every East Coast city in a different way, but I wouldn’t recommend coming for a holiday in NYC until the weekend. The most efficient way to rebook is online. Have your waiver code handy to make sure that you’re rebooked based on the flexible hurricane policy.

If your hotel is in the path of an evacuation zone, it may be a couple of days before you’re able to get through to find out about a refund. But most likely, you’ll be fully refunded. If you can’t get to your hotel destination due to Hurricane Sandy, contact the hotel directly to discuss a refund or changing your booking without being charged a fee.

Any other tips you can recommend?

Stay connected by downloading apps to your smartphone:

•Travelocity’s app [or other airline or booking site apps] to rebook your itinerary on the fly.

•Red Cross Hurricane app to locate shelters, let your family know you’re okay and to find out specific Hurricane Sandy updates.

•Flight Track Pro app, to track flight delays and cancellations in real time.

Also, let your family know your whereabouts on Facebook or Twitter. To keep track of real-time updates, follow the tweets of airlines, airports, hotels, weather services, NYCGOV and other emergency and travel sources.

Addendum:

Brian Kelly of ThePointsGuy.com also piped in on this topic. He recommends:

•Call international customer service phone numbers to avoid long domestic wait times.

•Have a friend or family member with elite status call for you.

•Use GetHuman.com to help you find the fastest way to get in touch with a customer service agent.

Looking for something specific? Here’s a guide to our Hurricane Sandy coverage on washingtonpost.com:

Closings, cancellations

Delays, closing and cancellations in D.C. region schools, governments

Going Out Guide: Events canceled

Weather forecasts, maps

Hurricane Tracker

Capital Weather Gang

Map: Keeping up with Sandy

Power outages

Live power outage map

Transportation: Metro, airports and more

Metro shuts down service

Flights canceled due to Hurricane Sandy

Video: How to drive in bad weather

What to do if your flight is cancelled

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