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Travel trouble: 'Snow happens!'

By Greg Goodsell
March 5th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

You and your family returning from a vacation in a faraway state. You're at the airport, when you learn that your flight has been canceled due to bad weather. The airline will gladly honor your tickets for the flight home – the following day. You don't have a place to stay and the notion of you and the kids sleeping in the airport looms large. What to do?

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "While airlines typically attempt to rebook passengers on an alternate flight and offer refunds if flights are canceled, they are not obligated to refund, reroute or compensate passengers for meals or hotel costs incurred if their flight is canceled because of weather," Michelle Higgens of the New York Times says.

Snowstorms are hurricanes are beyond human control, and flight cancellations are a fact of life. Higgens offers a few helpful hints to minimize costs during a delay in her article, "You canŽt weatherproof a flight."

Higgens suggests checking the airline's Web site for weather bulletins or storm waivers She also says to not bypass the automated system where you are trying to reschedule a flight. "Your first instinct may be to press zero when frantically trying to get a customer service representative on the phone, but you could actually end up waiting much longer."

She also says that ordering flights online is the best way to go. "Delta and United, among others, allow travelers to revise itineraries on their Web sites by clicking on a link in their weather bulletin and plugging in the confirmation number."

Higgens also suggests that you don't necessarily have to book different flights with the same airline.

"Airlines generally offer full refunds for canceled flights or if the alternative schedules offered are simply unacceptable. That means, if you find a better flight on another airline, you can book that instead and recoup the cost of the original tickets. Sure, booking a last-minute flight will inevitably cost more than those cheapo seats you purchased months in advance, but at least youŽll make it to your destination."

Higgens also says that travel insurance can be very helpful. "Even though airlines typically waive change or cancel penalties amid major storms, travel insurance can cover things like unused hotel rooms or prepaid deposits."

Finally, Higgens tells travelers to be aware that weather will always hinder trips to a certain extent, and to be persistent but be prepared to roll with it. "Snow happens."

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