Hurricane Sandy Update: Get Around Long Phone Hold Times To Change or Cancel Travel Plans

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According to, more than 6,800 flights have been canceled so far, and rail traffic has also been impacted with Amtrak canceling all of its Northeast Corridor service in addition to some other lines it operates in the region where Hurricane Sandy has hit. With all the canceled flights and disrupted travel, I wanted to write a post with strategies on how to get around long airline hold times for those of you who have been left stranded or need to change your travel plans so you’re not stranded in the coming days.

1. Call International Customer Service Numbers

While the US numbers of the major airlines will be jammed with passengers scrambling to change their plans at the last minute, many airlines’ international customer service lines will only have their usually moderate wait times. Before you worry about the cost of calling Australia or Asia and being put on hold for several minutes, keep in mind that many international customer service lines accept free Skype calls, so if you have a Skype account and a WiFi connection, you’re golden.

Here are the links to major airlines and their international call centers.
Air Canada Aeroplan
US Airways
Virgin America

2. Have an Elite Member Call For You

When there are travel delays and flight cancellations, having elite status can mean the difference between spending days on end at the airport and getting booked on a new flight immediately. If you know a flyer with mid- or top-tier elite status on the airline you’re flying who is willing to help you, have them call the dedicated elite desk of your airline. Hold times are usually much shorter, and agents on those lines are usually willing to do a lot more for a valuable elite member than just your average flyer.

3. Go Online

Many of the airlines most affected by Hurricane Sandy have already waived change and cancellation fees on tickets and would rather have affected passengers contact them as soon as possible instead of showing up at the airport only to find out their flight has been canceled. Rather than sitting on hold on the phone lines, which are bound to be flooded with callers, consider changing your reservation online – especially if you’re not stuck somewhere needing to get home and just want to cancel upcoming plans. You should be able to do so by going to your airline’s homepage, accessing your reservation with the number and your name, or your frequent flyer account, and then making the necessary changes. If you find that you have been charged change or cancellation fees, you can submit an online request for reimbursement that the airlines should automatically be set up to process because of the storm. This is a quick way to change your plans without the hassle of sitting on the phone, and it’ll free up phone lines for passengers truly in distress.

Go to to get a call back.

4. Use is a website that guides readers towards the fastest way to get in touch with over 8,000 companies’ customer service reps. One of the things it can help you look up is “Click to Call” features that several airlines including American and United have where you just enter your name and number and a rep will call you back as soon as they’re available. It’s a bit of a gamble with the situation going on at the moment, but it could still be better than sitting on hold.

5. Use An App

If you’re flying a major airline, chances are there’s an app for that.  Airline apps have gotten a lot more sophisticated and can help you track down, change and cancel reservations right from your phone or PDA, or at least connect to the customer service center through Skype. So if you’re on the road without an internet connection, but your phone is still working, download your airline’s app and take advantage of its convenience features.

I hope this helps some readers out there whose travel plans have been disrupted by the storm. If any of you have other suggestions, please share them below in the comments!

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