Insta-CoGo: You, Freezing Rain and Canceled Flights
Not more snow, sleet and freezing rain! The forecast is ominous, and having traveled through the last round a week ago, I feel for anyone traveling in the next 36 hours who may have concerns about whether their flights, or connecting flights, will get off the ground.
Let's say they won't. Sorry, but that's a definite possibility. I flew back to Newark last week from the Caribbean, unaware that a surprise ice and snowstorm had hit the mid-Atlantic. And having never had a flight canceled before due to weather (I know, I've been very lucky), I wasn't prepared for the possibility.
Long story short(ish): My flight landed at 7 p.m. in heavy snow, but my 9:45 p.m. connecting flight to DCA was still listed as "on time." So I went to the gate and waited. At 9, it was still snowing and the gate agent for Continental still insisted the flight was on time (though he admitted he had his doubts whether that would hold out). My wife and I discussed the possibility of a cancellation and called Amtrak to see its schedule south.
At 9:44, the flight was canceled. The next train to D.C. was at 10:20, but the cab line had about 100 people in it, and the airport monorail in the direction of the Amtrak station was temporarily out of service. With hundreds of people scurrying about trying to make alternate plans, we learned a few things:
1. It would have really helped if we'd programmed hotel chain 800 numbers into our cell phones. The airlines don't put you up if it's a weather delay, so we had to scramble. And because our flight was one of the last canceled for the night, there were few rooms in the inns. We finally found something at the Days Hotel -- and when we arrived were told we'd gotten one of the last rooms. Anyone following behind us would be out of luck, since it was overbooked.
2. We're going to carry an Amtrak schedule with us for now on. It took forever to get through to a live person, and the computerized menus on the 800 number take forever.
3. We never realized that Amtrak accepts Continental tickets, which we could have used if we'd made the train on time. The problem: Our flight was a Delta/Continental codeshare, and we'd booked on Delta's Web site. Next time, we'll book with Continental in a similar situation.
4. Those big hotel boards with the phones attached at airports are everywhere -- until you need one. I'm never leaving an airport again without taking note of where they're located.
5. If you're traveling in tandem, it really helps to break up and do different tasks. For instance, while I tipped the hotel shuttle driver and got our bags, my wife bolted into the hotel to be sure she was one of the first served.
6. We found an amazing Continental agent at an empty kiosk who talked us into the wisdom of booking the first flight out the next morning. Her reasoning: Even it's delayed, it'll probably be less delayed than the ones after it. She was absolutely correct; our flight got off the ground an hour late, while the ones scheduled for later in the morning were two or three hours delayed.
7. Always pack snacks. We ended up eating out of the vending machine at the Days Hotel, but it was the breakfast bars we'd been carting that really filled us up.
Any other advice out there for the haplessly stranded? I know I can use some more pointers.
By John Deiner |
February 21, 2008; 1:31 PM ET
Travel Survival Tips
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