So, what do you do if you are planning to travel and a storm gets in the way?
Stay in touch with your travel agent.
Public access to airlines’ information has improved greatly in recent years, but we still have some access channels which travelers do not. Airline websites are very good at giving you information about flight status and cancellations. They do not tell you what might be available on other airlines. If your trip to Buenos Aires is endangered because Miami is threatened by an approaching storm, American Airlines will not suggest that you fly on Delta through Atlanta instead. Travel agents can see the options and advise you for your situaition. If you have a typical non-refundable ticket, we will not be able to put you on a different airline without the original carrier’s permission. But we might already have advisory bulletins from airlines telling us what is possible. Especially when a storm is long anticipated, airlines do try to make life easier by sending notices before the crisis. One typical option is a refund of the remaining value of your ticket, which frees you financially to buy another option if one is available.
Keep your travel insurance policy handy. You did buy insurance, didn’t you? Especially when you have booked and paid for your trip well in advance, you should purchase travel insurance. Most people buy it because they fear that someone will fall ill and not be able to travel. Travel insurance also reimburses you for time and money lost because you could not start or complete your travel as scheduled, or if you have to cancel because of severe weather (including volcanic eruptions). Your policy will have a 24 hour phone number to call for assistance from anywhere in world. They can advise you what sorts of options are available, can make additional reservations for you, and can tell you what will be covered by your policy. Be familiar with what is covered by your policy so that you can imagine possibilities yourself before you call. And keep the phone number handy. (Also Vista Travel has a 24 hour emergency line for passengers who booked with us. There is a $20 fee for any call to that number – 888-567-9406.)
What if it is too late to do either of these? You are far from home (or want to be far away soon), the storm is coming fast, and you need help. Call me anyway. I cannot access your flights if you made the reservation directly with the airline or an internet site. BUT I could help you find a hotel on short notice, or sell you a new ticket to get home (after Spirit Air drops you at Fort Lauderdale with no reliable prediction of when they will be able get you home – true story). If you do not get me immediately, please leave your phone number in the message. When I work from home I cannot see the caller ID on my office phone. Unless I have a current reservation which I made for you, I might not even have your home phone number, let alone your cell phone number.
We cannot make a storm go away but we can lessen the pain with a good plan. So we will all do the best we can and spend the rest of the time singing appropriate songs. “Who Will Stop the Rain?” How about “Rainy Days and Mondays”? Or even “Here Comes the Rain Again”? At least “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” progresses to a sunny day!
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
1 November 2012