Saving My Trip From Weather Delays — Reader Success Story

May 31, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader JC, who canceled one flight and booked another at the last minute:

The last Tuesday of January, I booked an AAdvantage award from Milwaukee (MKE) to New York-LaGuardia (LGA) via Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to spend a couple days with my brother, but I was ambushed by the Polar Vortex! I was at my gate two hours early (it was winter in the Midwest, after all) when I received the dreaded text from American Airlines advising of a flight delay to ORD, making my connection time perilously tight. The same text also offered me the opportunity to rebook at no charge, since the delay was weather related.

Instead of waiting it out or immediately trying to rebook, I called Delta and checked for award space on its nonstop MKE-LGA flight later that morning. They had space, so I booked it first and then canceled my American flight. Not only did I make it to LGA earlier (thanks to the the nonstop), but also my AAdvantage miles were returned to my account, and I was upgraded from Main Cabin to seat 1C! What could have been a winter travel nightmare turned out to be my lucky day.

Scoring a last-minute upgrade may be fortunate, but the way JC maneuvered to stay on schedule was more skill than luck. Competition for open seats can be fierce during widespread delays or cancellations, so a proactive response can help you avoid getting stranded. Don’t just wait around to be reaccommodated; start your own search for alternative flights right away. If your airline has issued a weather waiver, then you can widen your search to other carriers with no penalty. But if you need to travel urgently, abandoning your original itinerary may be worthwhile even if you incur a cancellation fee or close-in booking fee.

If you’d rather work with what you already have, keep in mind that you don’t have to stand in the (sometimes excruciatingly long) ticketing line to get rebooked. You may be able to rebook yourself instantly online, through your airline’s mobile app or at a ticketing kiosk. When you need help from a live person and you’re facing lengthy hold times over the phone, try contacting your airline’s social media team instead of (or in addition to) calling. Alternatively, head to your airline’s nearest lounge to see if you can enlist the help of a lounge agent; they tend to be less swamped than ticketing agents when delays and cancellations are rampant.

Related: Trip Delay Reimbursement and the Credit Cards That Offer It

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending JC a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by ArtMarie / Getty Images.

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