The record snowfall caused major headaches for travelers this holiday season as thousands of flights were delayed or canceled across the country. Here's what you need to know from an expert about rebooking flights, getting compensated for missing luggage and more.
Travel expert Troy Petenbrink says the travel mess with Southwest Airlines will be one for the history books. More than 5,000 flights were canceled by Southwest on just Monday and Tuesday.
However, he says there are ways to protect yourself.
"As soon as you find out your flight is canceled, you want to see if you can get rebooked," says Petenbrink. "That means going to the customer service desk, getting online, getting on the phone."
He says it helps to have the numbers for the airline you're traveling with pre-programmed onto your phone because, in situations like this, seconds count.
Petenbrink also says it helps to be proactive and already know some solutions available to you when you get in contact with customer support.
"Suggest a different airline…suggest a different airport," he says.
Another alternative to think about is getting reimbursed by your credit card company.
"Many credit cards have built-in travel protection that most people are unaware of," Petenbrink says. "But oftentimes, you can call up your credit card company and say, ‘Hey, can you help me out? Can you book me on another flight?’ And they'll pay for that."
Petenbrink says this solution depends on your credit card, and you must have purchased your original flight with that credit card. Your credit card may also have benefits pertaining to lost luggage, so make sure to ask about that as well.
If your situation gets to the point where the airline cannot book you on any flights and they offer you a travel voucher, Petenbrink says do not take it.
"It oftentimes comes with restrictions or even an expiration. Take the cash. That's your money – get it back," he says.
Petenbrink says airlines won't always offer you the cash up front, but if you ask for it, you will get it.
To prevent the headache of delays and cancelations in the future, Petenbrink says spending the extra dollars on travel insurance when you buy your ticket is worth it.
When it comes to lost luggage, he also has some helpful tips if you are going to your destination and your luggage is lost.
"Many of the airlines will give you up to $50 a day for your travel essentials," Petenbrink says.
To get your $50, head to the baggage claim office, tell them your luggage has not arrived and ask them what they can do for you. Petenbrink says you'll file a claim and then you should ask how much they're able to give you per day for travel essentials such as toiletries.
"I take a photo of my luggage and all the items in it before I travel," Petenbrink says. "So, if my luggage is lost, I can actually report every item that is missing and get that full reimbursement."
He says another tip of his is to always have an ID inside your bag in case your tag on the outside gets torn off or removed.
For more information from Petenbrink, click here.
Southwest also has a dedicated website for travelers to request a refund: http://southwest.com/traveldisruption