If you had travel plans on the East Coast this week, you likely received an email or phone call in the past 24 hours letting you know your flight has been cancelled. Airlines cancelled more than 3,000 flights on Sunday as a result of Hurricane Sandy and by the looks of things, another few thousand will be cancelled on Monday.
So now what?
As I write this post, I'm in San Francisco waiting out the storm. Virgin America cancelled my flight 48 hours in advance of Monday (when I was supposed to fly home), giving me enough time to adjust my hotel reservations and make alternate plans. Some airlines waited a little longer to make the cancellations, and some hotels are already booking up with stranded guests.
If you're supposed to be traveling this week and need to cancel your plans, you have rights. The airlines, hotels and travel agencies have policies in place for natural disasters and weather-implemented cancellations, so you have options:
As of Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28, United, Virgin, American, Delta, JetBlue Southwest and US Airways cancelled flights to the New York tri-state area, Boston and Washington airports, as well as others along the East Coast. The airlines are offering refunds (typically in the form of vouchers) or waiving change fees. My advice: Be patient - the airlines are going to be swamped with travelers calling so you might wait a while on the phone. Read the cancellation policy from your airline - you'll have a few days to call and rebook or cancel - so as long as you do it in the allotted time, you'll be fine.
Here are the numbers for the airlines, and a link to their cancellation policies:
American Airlines: 1-800-433-7300
JetBlue: 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583)
Southwest Airlines: 1-800-435-9792
United Airlines: 800-864-8331
US Airways: 800-428-4322
Virgin America: 1.877.359.8474
Hotels are also waiving fees for last-minute cancellations and allowing re-bookings. Hurricane or not, many hotels only require 24-hour advance notice for a cancellation with no penalties, so you should be OK. However, if you booked a pre-paid rate or booked through a third-party agency like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, you might be subject to their policies as set by the hotel.
I checked with my contacts at Marriott and Hyatt, and both hotel groups confirmed that the individual hotels set their policy, so it's best to call the hotels directly and work with the reservation teams to cancel or rebook your room. You'll find that even the most restrictive policies are loosened in the event of a hurricane. Here's a list of the major hotel groups and their phone numbers:
Fairmont Hotels: 800-527-4727
Four Seasons: 800-332-3442
Hilton Hotels: 800-445-8667
Hyatt Hotels: 800-233-1234
InterContinental Hotels: 800-327-0200
Preferred Hotels: 800-323-7500
Sheraton Hotels: 800-325-3535
W Hotels: 877-946-8357
Westin Hotels: 800-325-3535
Wyndham Hotels: 800-545-5545
The most important thing at this point is your safety. If your travel plans are cancelled, rest assured you'll be able to rebook for another time. I'll keep you updated on any more information about travel as it happens.
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