In the last couple of weeks a lot of travelers were either stuck at the airport, living at the airport, camping at the airport, or trapped on a plane.
Peter recently sat down with Everett Potter, of the Everett Potter Travel Report, to trade tips on being proactive to avoid becoming a victim of weather-related delays.
Peter Greenberg: I know you’re a big skier, but where were you recently rescheduled to or from?
EP: I was flying from LaGuardia to O’Hare, lovely O’Hare, in the middle of winter.
PG: Well, that’s a double negative right there.
EP: I was supposed to go on a Monday and the storm was bearing down. They called up and said we would like you to go Monday afternoon instead, and we’d like to send you through Indianapolis to get to Chicago. And I thought, maybe not the best idea. So I said how about I go on Tuesday? So I went on Tuesday and we got out just fine. If we had agreed to what American had been saying we would have never flown. We would have been at the airport with the hoards, and then probably not gone because by that time so many people would have tried to reschedule it would have been crazy.
Find out: Top 10 Worst-Weather Airports in America
EP: No, we called them.
PG: I rest my case. Why would you want to be a refugee at the airport if you can avoid it? Before you leave for the airport, call the airline and say I’m on airline B’s Flight 108. Cn you please tell me the aircraft number assigned to Flight 108? And they’ll say it’s aircraft #61. Great, could you tell me where aircraft #61 is? Oh, it is in Belize? Well I guess I’m not going from LaGuardia to Chicago today.
EP: That is exactly what happened. I think we were the first American Airlines flight out on that Tuesday morning after the storm. Largely because there was no equipment for the rest of the flights scheduled.
PG: And yet, if you looked at the departure board, which hasn’t told the truth since 1947, it would say that every flight as on time.
EP: That’s right.
Learn how the industry really works: Airlines & Airports – Air Travel section
PG: I really think the airlines should stop insulting us. They treat us on a need-to-know basis, but we need to know and they don’t tell us.
EP: You really have to be proactive. You really have to get in there yourself and make things happen for yourself in terms of whether your flight’s going to go, whether it is going to change.
PG: And the other thing, over the holidays there were some horrendous stories of 11 hour delays on the tarmac. Not with US airlines, but with foreign carriers. One in particular was Cathay Pacific. What people learned about that was that tarmac rule that went into effect last April, which said you had to get into the gate within three hours or the airline will be subject to a fine of $27,500 per passenger, did not apply because these were foreign carriers.
EP: That’s exactly right. Most of the chaos, I think, in terms of the tarmac delay this time was due to the foreign carriers getting stuck, particularly at Kennedy airport. The rules are changing, as you well know. In April, the foreign carriers will then be subject to the same fines, apparently, that domestic airlines have right now in place. But let’s see what happens when that happens.
PG: We did see a number of preemptive cancellations. If I were running the airline I would do the same thing, wouldn’t you?
EP: Yeah I would, and you know delays now have taken a back seat to cancellations. Granted, the airlines had a big storm to deal with and they couldn’t get planes from A to B, but I think we’re going to see cancellations rise as a result of the fines for long delays on the tarmac.
PG: Yes. So where are you flying next and what are you going to do before you get to the airport? I just want to check.
EP: I am flying to Zurich, Switzerland. I’ve got to check in and see what my future holds at the airport based on the weather.
PG: Well, let’s put it this way, if I see you at the airport it won’t be pretty, right?
EP: It won’t be pretty. But chances are I’ll only go if I know it is really going.
PG: Bottom line is this: You can be proactive, as Everett suggests. You can call the airline and ask for information. Don’t ask if your flight is on time because they’ll only interpret it to mean if the flight is scheduled on time. Ask for the tail number, see if it applies to where you are and where the plane is that you need to be on. And unless you’re in a hub city like Chicago for United, or Dallas for American, or Atlanta for Delta they’re not going to roll out another plane for you because they just don’t have one.
EP: No they aren’t. And another thing about being proactive is yes, you can spend time on American site or United site for flight updates, but I like sites like FlightStats, which, as far as I know, doesn’t have an axe to grind.