Hurricane Sandy may have made the biggest headlines in the United States, but Latin America was also affected, with dozens of cancelled flights and trip interruptions. This recent event highlighted how a single weather incident in one part of the globe can easily cause travel problems for passengers thousands of kilometers away, as airports close and aircraft and flight crews get backed up. But with a bit of planning and common sense, business travelers can better negotiate unforeseen challenges to their plans.
To start with, familiarize yourself with an airline's cancellation policy; when you're booking a ticket, it's a good idea to review cancellation and rebooking policies based on the airfare selected. It's also helpful, if possible, to avoid travel during heavy traffic periods, such as major holidays, as well as times when severe weather conditions are likely to occur (late bookers will obviously have more control over this type of scheduling). Trip insurance can also come in handy, so the benefits may be worth the relatively low cost (Copa Airlines offers coverage in conjunction with Travel Shield, for example, which provides up to US$500 of international trip cancellation and interruption insurance).
Why Loyalty Programs Matter
It's also a good idea to stick with loyalty programs. After all, when troubles occur, airlines are likely to respond faster to travelers with elite status, and provide them with better rebooking options. For example, travelers with Premium Silver and Comodoro status with LANPASS also have free access to oneworld VIP salons in various airports around the world - providing a quiet place to de-stress when travel plans become complicated.
Consider a VIP Lounge Pass
Even travelers without free access might do well to consider a day pass to a VIP lounge, whether it belongs to a specific airline or a private operator. For a one-time fee, lounge guests can enjoy free drinks, snacks, magazines and Wi-Fi - not to mention the peace and quiet that an airport gate usually can't provide. (At Aeromexico's international Salon Premier lounge in Mexico City, there is even a spa where passengers can pay for a quick massage). It's also an ideal place to check with airport staff about rebooking cancelled flights, and the shorter lines are a big plus.
Call - Don't Stand in Line
And speaking of lines, in general it's best to avoid them completely. Pick up that cell phone and call the reservation number for the airline. A reservation agent - especially on a preferred, elite-status phone line - is likely to answer long before the last person in crowded airport reaches the ticket counter.