Blizzard 2015: What to do if your flight is cancelled

Bombogenesis: What to do in worst case scenario travel situations throughout the next few days.

Seth Wenig/AP
A man de-ices a plane during a light snow on the runway at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. Airlines cancelled thousands of flights into and out of East Coast airports as a major snowstorm packing up to three feet of snow barrels down on the region.

In the next 48 hours, New England and the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are due to be hit by a nor'easter. Before the first flakes of the storm, which is now being called “bombogenesis,” began to fall, airlines had cancelled over 6,000 of the flights scheduled to fly into or out of the storm’s path through Wednesday, according to USA Today.

If you are planning to travel, or have had your travel plans abruptly cancelled, here are a few steps to insure that rectifying the situation and braving the storm is as painless and inexpensive as possible.

Be aware of what is going on

Don’t get stranded at the airport unnecessarily. If your flight hasn’t been cancelled yet, call and double check before you leave for the airport that your flight is still going ahead as planned. When weather is involved, flights are usually cancelled well ahead of time. If you confirm that your flight is not cancelled, sign up for text alerts from the airline so you remain on top of the status of your flight.

Prepare for the possibility of a cancellation

Even if your flight is not cancelled, prepare for that possibility. If you can, pack lightly so you won’t need to check bags at the airport. Transferring flights is a lot easier if your luggage is with you and not who knows where in the bowels of the airport.

If your flight is delayed, don’t think that you can leave for the airport later than planned. Delays can be bumped up and if the weather is serious the airport will be packed. Give yourself plenty of time to get through security and customs.

Call the airline to rebook your flight

If your flight is cancelled, immediately call the airline to re-book. Even if you are already at the airport and asked to wait in line to rebook, call while you are in line, it will get you ahead of the other people on your cancelled flight. Some airlines are also contractually obligated to get passengers on the next flight to the desired destination, even if it is with a competing airline. If you are having trouble re-booking, check if the airline has this policy.

Ask if the airline will compensate you

After getting yourself a seat on another flight, see if you can get some compensation for the inconvenience. Most major airlines have already agreed to waive any additional fees for changing flights during the storm. Occasionally, if the delay is long enough, some airlines will give passengers free hotel stays or meal vouchers. The US Department of Transportation guarantees flyers certain rights. Make sure you are being treated properly.

Book a hotel room

If it is getting late, you can’t get a seat on another plane, and you couldn’t get a free hotel room through the airline, then it is time to book a hotel room for yourself. There are lots of apps that can make finding a hotel room last minute less stressful, including HotelTonight, Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity. Download one while you are waiting in one of the aforementioned lines or on hold with the airline.

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