Veronika Oven was aboard a JetBlue Airways flight from Dulles International Airport to Oakland, Calif., on June 30 when it was diverted to Pittsburgh because of a thunderstorm.
As the night wore on, Oven sat with other passengers at the gate while the concourse restaurants shut down. JetBlue passed out free soft drinks and snacks such as almonds and biscotti to the stranded travelers.
When the 9 p.m. flight finally took off at 1:30 a.m., JetBlue waived the $5 fee for its in-flight movie. It also gave passengers a partial credit for the delay. Oven received $160 toward her next JetBlue flight, an unusual compensation for a weather-delayed flight.
"It was a long and frustrating evening," said Oven, director of education and research for the Washington-based American Organization of Nurse Executives. "It was a pain in the neck but at least there was food and they gave us a refund."
If you've flown anywhere in the past month or so and your flight was delayed, your airline probably told you it was because of weather. This year's hurricanes have created havoc for many airlines along the southern and the eastern coasts. Airlines are still dealing with remnants of Hurricane Dennis, while Texas is bracing for Hurricane Emily, the fifth tropical storm this year. And things are expected to get worse as hurricane season stretches into October.
Flight delays this month -- largely because of weather -- are up 27 percent from last July, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. On Wednesday, July 13, the FAA recorded 100 flight delays, a record number for a single day, said FAA spokeswoman Rebecca Trexler.
And this week isn't "going to be too good either," Trexler warned as forecasters predicted isolated thunderstorms up and down the East Coast as the week progresses.
To avoid the worst delays, passengers should take early flights and avoid late afternoon or evening departures. Storms tend to build up later in the day and so do the delays.
If your flight does get delayed or canceled, immediately phone the airline to book the next flight out. Don't wait until you get to the ticket counter. By then, the flight may be sold out. And don't rely on the airline to automatically book you on the next available flight, especially if that flight is on another airline.
Travel expert Tom Parsons, chief executive of Bestfares.com, said it may be difficult finding a seat on another flight because airlines already have booked about 85 percent of their seats for the summer. Travelers should carry the phone number of the travel agent or Web site that booked their ticket, so they can contact them for a new booking.
The shuttles between Washington, New York and Boston have been hit especially hard. ABC News executive A'Lelia Bundles was delayed four times on the Washington-New York shuttle last month. Bundles quickly gave up on the plane on two of those trips and switched to Amtrak's Metroliner train.
One of the biggest frustrations for airline passengers is lack of information during weather delays. Airlines are required to update travelers often about the length of the delay and the expected time of departure, but some travelers said airlines aren't providing timely information.
Deborah Wright said she was aboard a Comair flight on July 5 that sat on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport for two hours before she heard an estimated time of departure. "If we had more information we would be able to better utilize our options," said the Charleston, S.C., resident.
Airlines aren't required to give meal or hotel vouchers if the flight is delayed because of weather. But some -- the few carriers that have the cash to do so -- will offer some small refreshments as a way to stay in customers' good graces.
US Airways gave Robert L. Dunn of Williamsburg, Va., a $10 meal voucher and paid for his hotel room after his July 1 flight from New York's LaGuardia to Columbus, Ohio, was canceled because of inclement weather.
US Airways spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said Dunn received the vouchers because the flight was canceled for mechanical problems with the aircraft that surfaced during the weather delay.
JetBlue said the weather has cut into the airline's performance. The carrier said 75.5 percent of its flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled times in May and June, down from 82.7 percent during the same period last year. The airline canceled 20 of its flights in May and June, compared with just two cancellations a year ago. "It's been a very difficult summer already," said JetBlue spokesman Todd Burke.
BWI Parking Coupon: Travelers using Baltimore-Washington International Airport can print a coupon for a $2 discount per day off the $10 daily parking rate by going to www.bwiairport.com. The coupon can be used through Aug. 31.