What to Do If Hurricane Irene Cancelled Your Flight

delta airlinesAs if the warnings that we're in for a major walloping from Hurricane Irene weren't a bad enough way to end the summer, the last "real" week of August is now a disaster. Tens of thousands of summer vacationers are now facing cancelled flights from the likes of Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, and just about every other major carrier that flies in and out of the East. So if your flight has been cancelled, what do you do?

Before you call the airline -- or worse, show up at the gate -- with an attitude, you need to map out a game plan. It will save yourself a lot of heartache (and probably some cash).

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If You Haven't Left for Your Vacation Yet:

If you're still home, stay there. You can call the airline to change your ticket to another date in the future. US Airways, American, United, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and AirTran have all dropped their normal fees for flight changes, so this won't cost you a thing.

If You're Far From Home:

The re-booking suggestion is for you too, but bear in mind that hurricane delays are vastly different from those caused by a snowstorm. While winter delays take time for the airline to de-ice the planes, clear the runways, etc., the same doesn't hold for rainstorms. Traditionally, as soon as the rain stops, the flight can take off.

So check with your airline to find out when they expect to get back off the ground. If you pick a date at random in the future, you could end up costing yourself time and the price of extra days in a hotel. Let the airline guide you to save you.

If you're at the airport, you can try hitting up the ticket counter, but a phone call to the reservations department may be in order. Ticket counters are generally flooded with cranky passengers, leaving the phone lines relatively open in comparison.

Be aware that rules for stranded passengers vary by airline. Surprisingly (or maybe not) there is no federal law requiring the industry reimburse you for the delay -- no food or lodging -- so check the website of your carrier before you go off half-cocked and start making demands. There IS a law that requires airlines help passengers if they overbook and "bump" you from a flight.

Has your flight been affected by Hurricane Irene?

 

Image via Andrey Belenko/Flickr

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