With a winter weather system poised to wreak havoc on the East Coast, airlines have already canceled hundreds of flights for Tuesday — and more trouble is likely on the way.
Snow and ice is set to hit parts of the mid-Atlantic, New York City and New England, with impacts beginning overnight Monday and the brunt expected into Tuesday, forecasters at Accuweather warned.
The National Weather Service in New York warned Monday at least half a foot of snow is likely for parts of New York City and Long Island, although the exact forecast was still dynamic Monday evening.
Airlines have already issued travel advisories to prepare for the messy conditions, allowing customers extra flexibility to make ticket changes.
And airlines aren’t waiting to cancel flights: More than 850 flights had already been scrapped for Tuesday, according to data from FlightAware as of 9:05 p.m. EST on Monday.
The disruptions are already mounting in the Northeast ahead of the wintry conditions.
Endeavor Air, a regional carrier that flies as Delta Connection, leads the way with 160-plus cancelations for Tuesday — more than a quarter of its schedule.
JetBlue has canceled more than 150 flights for Tuesday, nearly a fifth of its schedule. And regional carrier Republic Airways (which operates flights for Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines) has also scrapped more than 150 of its Tuesday flights.
The most affected U.S. airports for Tuesday include Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and the three major airports in the New York area.
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On social media Monday evening, LaGuardia Airport (LGA) warned travelers of the conditions.
Considering that this line of snowy, icy conditions has been forecast to hit a slew of East Coast and Northeast hubs, more disruptions on more airlines are likely.
Delays and cancellations expected
Airports have warned customers to begin preparing for potential travel challenges. In Boston, Logan officials warned on social media Monday: “Due to forecasted snow, delays and cancellations are expected.” The airport urged customers to check their flight status with their airline.
The largest U.S. carriers have issued travel alerts spanning the mid-Atlantic, New York and New England.
These waivers typically allow even those passengers with the most restrictive, typically “unchangeable” tickets to alter schedules without incurring penalties — though each airline will specify rules for changing a ticket and what you’ll have to do to avoid paying a difference in fare.
Travelers covered by these alerts span many of the largest airlines’ biggest hubs, along with many other airports in the region.
Delta has issued alerts for its hubs at Boston, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK); American has done the same for LaGuardia, JFK and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL); United has alerts in place for Dulles International Airport (IAD) outside Washington, D.C., as well as Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
JetBlue has done the same for its key hubs in the Northeast, where its operation is heavily concentrated.
What to do if your flight is delayed or canceled
If you have travel plans for the next day or two, now is a good time to begin preparing … and planning what you would do if your flight were delayed or canceled.
Download your airline’s app
Make sure you’ve downloaded your airline’s app, and verify that your flight reservation appears in the app.
And keep a close eye on it.
The airline may proactively offer you a chance to rebook yourself with a few taps of the finger to avoid the worst conditions. It may do the same if your flight is affected by the winter weather, in which case you should act quickly, since seats on planes that are flying will quickly fill up as the disruptions pile up.
Plus, you can use the app to check the status of your incoming plane. If you’re leaving from Chicago and it’s delayed in Boston, there’s a good chance you may run into trouble yourself.
Long wait at customer service? Try this
If you need customer service assistance and are running into long waits on hold or at the customer service desk — and if your app isn’t cutting it — there are two things you might try.
First, fire up your laptop and see if your airline has an online chat option with customer service. This can sometimes be a quicker way to get help. Just make sure you have your confirmation number handy, because you’ll need it.
A second option: Do you have airline lounge access? The customer service agents upfront can help you, often with a much shorter wait.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Know your refund rights
During bad weather, the airline typically won’t reimburse you for unexpected hotel nights or meals if you get stuck somewhere.
However, if the airline cancels your flight, or if your flight is significantly delayed, and you choose not to travel, you’re entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your ticket, under U.S. Department of Transportation policy (but if you take the airline up on its offer to rebook you on another flight, no refund is required).
Don’t forget about travel insurance
Once a storm has formed, it’s generally too late to buy a travel insurance plan that will allow you to cancel your trip and make a claim to get your money back.
This is where a travel credit card with trip insurance protections comes in handy. If you booked all aspects of your trip with that card, you may be able to recover the costs of expenses like a hotel night, ground transportation or meals — yes, even if the flight troubles were because of bad weather.
And, if you’re out of luck this time, it may be all the more reason to consider adding a card with travel insurance to your wallet in the future.