With nearly half of flights into and out of DFW Airport canceled on Friday, there’s no doubt some travelers will be spending more hours than anticipated at the airport.
The winter weather coating the Metroplex in ice and barreling through the country has forced airlines to issue travel notices for 75 airports.
Airlines and airports always recommend checking flight status before embarking on a trip, but for those who got stuck, experts have some tips for staying comfortable.
Because of the airline industry’s light regulatory framework, there’s little consolation for American travelers when disaster strikes — be that winter weather or COVID-19, said William J. McGee, aaviation adviser to Consumer Reports.
“When you run an operation as close to the bone as the airlines have been doing, then it’s not surprising when everything falls apart,” he said.
These days, navigating travel woes requires ingenuity and self-advocacy.
Get in line. Anywhere.
If you’re at the airport when your flight is canceled, get in line.
But you don’t have to get in line at your gate, said Andrea Ballard, travel adviser at Sanders Travel Centre in Fort Worth.
“You can go to any gate agent for your airline, and they can help you. That’s one thing people don’t often know. Like if you’re flying American, an American agent can help you,” Ballard said.
Do your research
While you’re waiting, get familiar with your other flight options.
“It’ll save time when you do finally get to talk to an agent,” said Ballard. “Do a little bit of the groundwork yourself, because they’re dealing with a hundred clients, and you’re only looking at your own.”
If you find an alternate route with a layover, Ballard recommends checking out the weather in that location, too.
It’s also useful to check out your airline’s contract of carriage, which can often be found on the airline’s website, McGee said.
While the documents are typically vague and difficult to interpret, they can better inform passengers what they’re owed by the airline in the event of a delay or cancellation.
Know your rights
As an airline passenger in the U.S., your rights are minimal, McGee said.
But here’s one to remember: if an airline cancels your flight, regardless of reason, you are entitled to a refund.
“Not a voucher. A refund,” McGee said.
You’re also entitled to a refund for “significant delay.” Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation doesn’t specify what amounts to a “significant delay.”
Here’s what the Transportation Department says: “Whether you are entitled to a refund depends on many factors — including the length of the delay, the length of the flight, and your particular circumstances. DOT determines whether you are entitled to a refund following a significant delay on a case-by-case basis.”
Ask for a hotel voucher or check out the lounges
Most airlines have contract with local or airport hotels, Ballard said. If you’re stranded for the night, ask the agent you speak with if you could get a hotel voucher.
Under these arrangements, a shuttle will typically be available to transport you between the airport and the hotel.
If you’re delayed for hours and had already gone through security, Ballard recommends finding a comfortable spot to wait out the storm.
Most airline lounges offer day-passes for about $100.
For folks stranded at DFW, Ballard also recommends checking out the Grand Hyatt.
“Even if they’re fully booked for the night, their restaurant area is stunning and has great seating. Order yourself a drink and an appetizer and you can have a more comfortable place to sit,” she said.
“You need to be assertive with the airlines,” said McGee. “You need to invoke the contract of carriage and use their language. Ask them what the delay is due to. You need to assert what you want.”
Ballard added, “The people who navigate it the best are those who go into it with a flexible open mind.”