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Expect stranded airline passengers as snow expected to pummel Northeast

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

RICHMOND, Va. (WSLS 10) - Close to 4,500 flight cancellations for Monday and Tuesday have already been announced as a major winter storm approaches the east coast.

AAA says that number is almost guaranteed to rise significantly as the storm arrives and even after it is over.

"Whether stranded at home or away from home, many airline passengers across the country will be impacted by the storm now approaching the east coast," said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Whether or not airline passengers are scheduled to fly in the areas impacted by the storm or to other places, all passengers are at risk of being affected by this storm. Flights that are not cancelled may be delayed or re-routed creating a ripple effect that will likely last for days."

Some airlines have already announced that they are waiving cancellation and/or change penalties in an attempt to placate customers. Passengers are advised to check with their airline carrier to stay informed of options and whether or not penalties will be incurred.

Airport closures are a distinct possibility during the storm. Even after the storm passes, Access roads and parking lots will be impacted. "Travelers are encouraged to be patient not only before and during the storm, but afterwards as well. It takes time for the airlines to get everyone re-routed and get airplanes re-positioned," Meade added.

AAA offers the following suggestions for airline passengers in the coming days for both business and leisure travelers:

  • Check flight status before leaving home and sign up for your airline's flight status alert service - It beats making multiple calls and can help you to get information faster than waiting on hold for an airline representative.
  • Ask if re-booking fees are being waived - Most airlines, although not required to do so, will waive change fees due to severe weather.
  • If conditions are safe and your flight is not cancelled, allow for more time on the road in order to arrive at the airport in plenty of time - Remember that there are a finite number of seats on each airplane, and those who do not arrive in time will find that their seat has been given to another passenger who is anxious to get where they are going.
  • Be prepared for down time in airports – Carry snacks and entertainment for both adults and children but remember to get drinks after clearing security checkpoints due to TSA restrictions.
  • Be patient – Try to keep in mind that you are not the only delayed, tired, and frustrated traveler. You have lots of company, and a backlog of challenges will take time to correct.
  • "Bullying" airline personnel is not recommended - Kindness and understanding with the person who is helping you will take you much farther. Many airline employees have been through the same challenges you have and are working hard to accommodate throngs of passengers.
  • Carry a FULLY CHARGED cell phone - Passengers need to be prepared to wait in the airport in the event of a schedule change and carrying a fully charged communications device will ensure that any airline alerts or e-mails are received promptly.
  • Make decisions based on your personality and travel delay "tolerance" - If you are already experiencing a high level of frustration, you may not want to arrive at the airport for the first flight after it re-opens, as crowded conditions and delays are reasonable expectations.
  • Consider an alternate and perhaps even WARM destination – If your trip was cancelled, you may find some flexibility with travel vendors with regard to when and even where you go. Those who were going for a ski vacation out west may now be more in the mood for the beach as a cure for blizzard induced cabin fever.