When weather events cause travel disruptions, most people planning a vacation or business trip to an affected area have to change their plans. Airports and roads close, flights are diverted and destinations may be damaged or destroyed. Suddenly, the best travel plan has gaping holes in it that need instant attention. The good news is that many travel service providers stand by to help.
Right now, a massive superstorm, caused by the rendezvous of hurricane Sandy and two other big winter storms, is aimed at locations 800 miles inland up and down the U.S. East Coast and experts are worried.
“We’re looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people,” said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an Associated Press report.
Those with travel plans on either side of the storm are scrambling to reschedule. Airlines are waiving change fees for travelers who want to change their flights in and out of the growing area to be affected by the storm. It’s not something they have to do, but as travel service providers, airlines want to minimize the inconvenience to their customers.
Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and others are allowing air travelers to rebook flights starting Sunday for travel to and from a variety of Eastern U.S. airports.
Airlines are urging booked passengers to check the status of their flight frequently. Another good idea is to have a backup plan in place. If travelers have those potentially affected flights entered in smartphone app TripIt, for example, alternate flights are readily available. Signing up for email and/or text alerts from your airline provides additional information.
Similar in formation to 1991′s perfect storm when hurricane Grace joined a nor’easter and a cold front, this one looks to be far more powerful. That 1991 storm never came ashore. This one will.
Now, travel via cruise ship suddenly has a bit more allure. Unlike land-based travel destinations, cruise ships can, do and have moved out of harms way. Those booked on a cruise vacation will have less disruption than, say, those planning a trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey where casinos are closed and mandatory evacuations are happening.
Most of the time.
This storm is so big that in addition to normal itinerary modifications, ports are closing and entire sailings of a few ships have been cancelled. Carnival Cruise Line has canceled the October 28 sailing of Carnival Glory, not because of the storm, but due to a situation at the Norfolk Cruise Terminal. Positioned behind a major flood gate, which will will be closed to protect the city, there will be no access to the cruise terminal.
Regardless of the method of travel, this is where having a good travel agent in our back pocket comes in handy. Frankly, providing assistance to travelers in a time of emergency is probably one of the least common tasks that agents do. But in a situation like this, when surfing the Internet to make alternate plans can burn up valuable time that might have snagged a seat on the next flight out, travel agents shine.
Armed with information on all flights, hotels, cruise lines and other travel service providers at their fingertips, a good full-service travel agent can be the most efficient way to save the day.
[Photo Credit: Flickr user by ph_zainabe]