Flight canceled? Now what? Tips to get around when you travel

POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – It may sound fun getting stranded in a warm weather city, but what if it happens to you?

US Airlines canceled over 5,000 flights Tuesday and 650 have already been scrubbed for Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines, which carries more domestic passengers than any other airline, doesn’t expect to operate any flights Tuesday at 14 airports stretching from Washington to Portland, Maine. Southwest canceled about 900 flights, while American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines each cancelled more than 500.

Tracking service FlightAware.com says Tuesday’s cancellations bring the total for the week to around 7,740 flights. An additional 650 flights have been cancelled for Wednesday, a number that FlightAware expects to rise as the airlines scramble to resume operations.

Kathy Pahanish of Executive Tour and Travel in Poland has been watching the big storm closely and has already adjusted travel arrangements for customers. She changed flights for six people who are in Bermuda, giving them an extra few hours in the sun, plus finding a way back home thru Atlanta.

“If you have someone going through JFK today or tomorrow, you definitely want to change their schedule and take them through another gateway that would not impact them by the storm,” Pahanish said.

Mary Ann Dwyer at Tippecanoe Travel Service also helped a Valley flier get around the storm. She knows it’s not easy to do alone.

“Everybody panics when they are on their own and they don’t know what to do. They stand in those longlines and by the time you get up to the counter, the flights are gone,” Dwyer said.

If you’re stuck at the airport, travel agents suggest being on the phone with them when your turn comes at the ticket counter.

“We have the ability to bring up flights and so they can’t tell us there is nothing available,” Pahanish said. “I can tell you what flights to ask for or grab them myself with the airline, and then when you get up there, they’ll see it’s already been done.”

Travel agents suggest getting a seat assignment and giving the airline your cell number. And When you book a trip during winter, think about flying out of Pittsburgh to limit the impact of snow, and try getting connections through southern cities.

You may think you’re saving a few bucks booking airline tickets on your own, but agents will fight for you, preserving your rights as a passenger.

“The first thing we say to pack on your trip is your patience,” Pahanish said.