How to rescue yourself from holiday travel nightmares


The Southwest Airlines scheduling systems meltdown continues into Wednesday as the airline struggles to recover its operations canceling more than 2,500 flights today. The travel nightmare began leading into Christmas weekend with airlines delaying 8,425 and canceling 5,200 across the country even at airports far away from heavy winter storms and continues the week leading into New Year’s Eve.

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Travelers in Miami International Airport
(AP)

Thousands of flights canceled and delayed across U.S. airports

Brutal below freezing temps, high winds, rain and snow pounding the midwest, eastern seaboard, and as far west as Washington state. FlightAware’s MiseryMap is lit up like a Christmas tree with massive delays at major hubs throughout the entire U.S. still and largely centered on Southwest Airlines.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES ISSUES SECOND APOLOGY, ANNOUNCES RESOURCES FOR CANCELLATIONS, REIMBURSEMENTS, LOST LUGGAGE

Stop thinking an overwhelmed airline is going to help you – take matters into your own hands

I helped a friend by tapping into American award miles and using these tools to get him home from El Paso, Texas. He reported lines of people hundreds deep at the Southwest ticket counter and waiting on hold for hours without his call answered by a human being.

That’s when I turned to these tools below to get him out within a few hours of distress. He is already back home after booking a couple of flights through Phoenix airport (PHX) and landing at a nearby airport about another 30-45 minute drive from his home airport. 

TYRUS BLASTS BIDEN ADMIN’S RESPONSE TO SOUTHWEST AIRLINES DEBACLE: NO HELP WHEN AMERICANS ARE IN TROUBLE

Rental cars sold out

Passengers in some airports continue to remain stranded as rental car options and alternative transportation methods began to sell out. No matter which airline you book, arming yourself with these essential tools before heading to the airport will help if your flight gets delayed or canceled.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT DIVERTED TO MILWAUKEE DUE TO ‘POTENTIAL MECHANICAL ISSUE’ AMID CANCELLATION CHAOS

5 Essential Travel Tools to use if your flight is canceled

Canceled flight? These tools can help get you on the next flight while others wait in line going nowhere.

FlightsFrom.com mobile site

Screenshot of flightsfrom.com to help you if your flight gets canceled.

Screenshot of flightsfrom.com to help you if your flight gets canceled.
(Credit: flightsfrom.com)

Bookmark this flightsfrom.com site on your phone to see all routes and scheduled flights from every airport. Knowing this can help with rebooking when airline ticket counter agents see limited options. It seems counterintuitive to consider flying further away from your desired destination especially when airline and ticketing sites don’t present routes that are far out of the way.

Backtracking to cities can offer an open seat on a flight journey that zigzags to a more distant airport and still get you where you want to go faster than waiting for traditional routes to open. Being able to piece together information on an unconventional route that involves more than one airline is one of the most powerful benefits of the flightsfrom.com site.

Flight Board app

Screenshot of an app that helps you track flights if your flight gets delayed.

Screenshot of an app that helps you track flights if your flight gets delayed.
(Credit: Flight Board app)

Flight Board app helps you track delayed and canceled flights. Most valuable is how it shows which flights are still operating from an airport you are standing in when yours gets delayed or canceled.

This helps you understand which other flights are operating to get you to your destination. Remember to screenshot a photo of the flights available for the moment you are negotiating a recovery flight. Click to get Flight Board app for iOS and Android.

ExpertFlyer site

Screenshot of a website that shows you a flight inventory that most airlines do not show you.

Screenshot of a website that shows you a flight inventory that most airlines do not show you.
(Credit: ExpertFlyer)

ExpertFlyer site shows vast flight inventory that airlines hide from you. Frequent fliers use this as an essential must-have subscription that reveals far more than any airline wants you to know. Fact is, this tool alone can help you steer an airline representative toward available flights they may not even see.

I especially love a feature that allows you to click for additional flight status information that reveals a log of each flight. On one occasion, I was told by a gate agent after a flight was canceled that it was weather-related and that she could not help.

ExpertFlyer then allowed me to show the true data proving the flight was canceled for “operational” reasons with no mention of weather. Yes, I got a hotel voucher that paid for the night until my recovery flight took off first thing in the morning.

ExpertFlyer has a free seat alert function, and the real full working version is a paid monthly or annual subscription which for me pays for itself in spades. When it comes to free apps and services online of any worth, if you are getting a valuable product for free, then you are the product. ExpertFlyer is found here.

Get a quick recap about their app in the video below.

LiveATC Air Traffic Control radio app

App that allows you to listen in on traffic control.

App that allows you to listen in on traffic control.
(Credit: LiveATC app)

LiveATC app started as a fun way to hear air traffic control talking to the flight deck. Today, this can be one of the most essential recovery tools when delays start targeting your journey.

Find your city, then choose the airport and the ground channel for your departure. You will often hear exactly why your flight is delayed. And in some circumstances, you will hear the flight being canceled before it is announced to the cabin or flashes on the airline app.

The advantage of spotting trouble ahead of the masses can help you get into the next few seats still available on the following flights to get you to your destination. LiveATC is here. 

ITA Matrix flight search

Screenshot of a website that shows you all available flights at that current moment. (Credit: ITA Matrix)

Screenshot of a website that shows you all available flights at that current moment. (Credit: ITA Matrix)
(Credit: ITA Matrix)

ITA Matrix site shows all available flights for sale on all airlines at that moment. You cannot buy a ticket here, just get informed. Best bet is to buy an airline ticket directly from the airline you plan to travel. What works great here is this will show you flights available to your destination for sale available in real-time.

It shows other airlines which could be a better flight recovery option if your flight gets scrapped. Airlines would rather accommodate you on a later flight on the same company aircraft to save money. Fact is, you can often nudge your way into an airline confirming travel on a competitor in order to resolve a failure that sits on their shoulders. Search flights on ITA Matrix here. 

ELAINE CHAO WARNS OF MORE SCRUTINY FOLLOWING AIRLINES’ ‘TOTAL NIGHTMARE’ OVER CHRISTMAS

Pro Flight Tips

  • Book tickets on bigger planes when available. Flying larger aircraft that become planes used on international routes are seldom canceled.
  • Airline lounges offer better rebooking help. Buy a day pass if you cannot get through to an agent or reticket online with the airline’s app.
  • Avoid checking bags to give yourself the most flexibility. If you find a flight on another airline to get you where you want to go, airlines won’t always transfer checked luggage to other carriers.
  • Listen to LiveATC app control tower for your airport during a delay to hear how your flight is being handled by ground air traffic controllers. You will know to rebook before anyone else.

Have you tried any of these tools? Let us know if you were successful in the comments below.

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