Canceled flights: Don’t let them make you miss the cruise

If your plans for an upcoming cruise include flying to the port in the next few days, odds are your flight could be delayed. With the massive storm crippling travel throughout the US and canceling thousands of flights, service could be disrupted for several days. What hurts is knowing that at the end of the day you could be in sunny Florida or some other fair-weather area, if you can only get there. Savvy travelers know a few golden rules of doing a cruise vacation in the Winter that can increase the odds of making it to the port and keep you confident of your travel plans should a storm develop.

Buy travel insurance and know how to use it. Travel insurance on flights only is cheap but just one step towards what you need. The problem here is not that you are unable to make the flight, but that you might miss the ship. Carefully consider your insurance options. The best option is not always the cruise line insurance. Every insurance company has a toll-free 800-number to call with your “What if?” questions. Do that. Make sure you understand what happens if you miss the the ship and what your options are. In most cases, travel insurance reimburses you for covered expenses. You will need to have funds available to cover those expenses as they occur. If you thought ahead and bought travel insurance, you might be covered as many policies include protection against flight delays. Finding another flight might be a different story altogether though.Have a back-up plan. A good idea when flying during a time when flight delays are likely is to have backup flights already planned. It’s easy enough to do too. If you book your own airfare, make note of those other fights that didn’t seem quite so convenient compared to the flights you selected when you bought them. Later on, if your flight is delayed or canceled, those you passed on the first time may look really good.

Fly in the day before. This is a good idea no matter when you fly and from where. It gives you a huge cushion of time to absorb flight delays or cancellations. Consider the time of year you are flying too. Wise cruise passengers traveling this week might have arrived at their embarkation city two or more days in advance if their schedules could swing it. Doing that also puts what can be a long travel day behind you and allows you to wake refreshed and ready to board the ship. That first day on any ship can be a long one. Get the most out of it by being fully energized before boarding.

Know the route, driving. As a last resort, a long drive to the port, made longer by bad weather is another option. I know of cruise passengers who drove from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Miami last year, 23 hours straight through, when all flights were cancelled without any sign of relief until after their ship would have sailed away. These are hearty people who just would not accept “No cruise for you” in any shape or form.

Bad weather continues to delay travel in Europe

Snow and ice have been causing travel delays in Western and Northern Europe since last weekend, and another round of chilly weather is causing new trouble, the BBC reports.

Parts of Germany got inundated with freezing rain last night and today and some roads are covered in up to 2 centimeters (almost an inch) of ice. This has caused numerous accidents, although thankfully nobody has been killed. Icy and snowy conditions are also causing delays for rail service and automobile traffic in France and the UK.

At least there’s some good news. After a big backlog of flights, Heathrow is running at almost full capacity. Delays at the world’s busiest airport had created knock-on effects at many other airports.

If you’re traveling to, from, or within Europe, do yourself a favor and check to see if your flight or train is leaving on time. If you’re driving, please drive carefully.

[Image courtesy Alex Sven via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Snow continues to disrupt Europe flights and trains

Last night much of northern Europe got another dumping of snow, worsening the continent’s travel woes, the BBC reports. An unusually high amount of snowfall over the weekend left many passengers stranded as runways got buried and ice built up on wings. This latest snowfall has led to another round of cancellations.

Trains are overbooked as passengers look for alternative means of travel, but the snow is affecting how fast trains can go. Some companies, including Eurostar and those in Germany, are telling people to stay home.

Heathrow is suffering the most and will only be able to run 30% of its flights until 6a.m. Wednesday, and that’s assuming more snow doesn’t make matters worse.

Frankfurt airport, which has had to cancel almost 300 flights last night, tried to cheer up stranded passengers by bringing in clowns to entertain them. No news on how well that worked.

So if you’re traveling to, from, or within Europe this holiday season, be sure to check your flight status before heading to the airport.

[Photo courtesy Luke Robinson via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Which Airlines Will Cut Flights for Thanksgiving? (And Which Won’t?)

If you’ve ever tried to fly on or around Thanksgiving, you would be inclined to agree that it is among the busiest travel times of the year. Unfortunately, this holiday season will kick off with most airlines cutting the number of flights they offer. This will lead to fuller planes, fewer options and, of course, higher fares. According to USAToday, the combined cuts will lead to an 11% overall drop from last years flights. That’s 2.5 million fewer seats than last year’s Thanksgiving season (between the 20th and 30th of November).

The biggest cutbacks come from USAirways, which will drop its service by 40% compared to last year. Delta will cut 26% of its flights. The only two major names bucking the trend are JetBlue and Southwest. JetBlue is upping its ante by 3% by the end of the month, while Southwest is planning 15 new flights for the same period. Still, these increases are quite modest when compared to the substantial cuts in the industry. The bottom line: Thanksgiving season travelers who haven’t booked their flight yet are in for higher prices and fewer options.

Southwest Joins Flight-Cutting Club

Even though they seemed to be bucking the trend by adding flights earlier this summer, Southwest is finally joining other domestic airlines in the flight cutting club. This winter, the nation’s biggest budget carrier will cut nearly 200 flights in order to combat the effect that high fuel prices have on its bottom line.

According to a Southwest spokesperson, the cuts are not permanent. Routes like Nashville to Oakland and Tampa to Philly will be halted during the slower winter months (beginning in January), but will return later in the year.

Southwest is not as severely affected as its competition by high fuel prices because it purchased option which allow it to buy fuel at cheaper prices. As a result, their cuts are a lot less severe than those of other major carriers. While 200 flights seems substantial, it is only a 6% drop in the overall number of flights. In comparison, American Airlines and United Airlines are promising cuts of 12% and 16% respectively. So, even as they trim their service, Southwest can still say that they are performing better than others in the industry.