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BAD WEATHER AND BAD TRAVELERS AHEAD
By Joe Brancatelli
November 24, 2013 -- I wanted to give you a heads-up on what's looking to be an awful week of weather ahead of the heavy (and leisure-oriented) Thanksgiving travel period.
Let's start with now: There's already significant icing in and around Texas and that is playing havoc at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport today. According to FlightStats, about 700 takeoffs and landings have been cancelled at DFW as of 5:45pm ET.
For Monday through Wednesday, the same ice storm that's slamming DFW will move east and north. And if you didn't know better, you'd think this storm was especially targeting airline hubs. As the week progresses, there will be rain/ice/snow affecting Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. And life won't be great this week in Chicago, either. It's flurrying in the Chicago area now and Monday and Tuesday look icky, too. (Icky, by the way, is an official weather term...)
Moreover, it'll be unseasonably cold all week nationwide.
Given the extra-heavy travel this week--and all of it aimed at being at someone's Thanksgiving table on Thursday--I'm thinking we're looking at truly awful conditions. Bad weather is bad enough. Twin that with bad travelers and you have the possibility of some hard days' nights.
So what to do?
1) If you must be on the move this week, have back-up plans. Whatever it takes, including perhaps eating some change or cancellation fees. And as I often advise, research alternate routings on your own before you fly. Don't rely on stressed gate and ticket agents to know all of the options.
2) Budget extra time--lots of it--getting to or from the airport. Remember, the roads will be crowded with drivers doing the holiday thing. (A very thin silver lining? The AAA says travel will actually be down a bit this year versus last Thanksgiving.)
3) Have your weather apps updated and easy to access on your phones.
4) Have back-up airport hotel reservations. The only thing worse than being stuck at the airport overnight is being stuck at the airport overnight knowing that you could have had a nice bed if only you'd planned for the worst. By the way, if you haven't downloaded your preferred hotel chain's app, now would be a good time.
5) Travel very light. If the weather gets extra-nasty and the airlines start canceling masses of flights, lots of checked luggage will go awry. If you carry on, you're at least good to go when and if and how the airlines can move you.
6) Make sure airlines know how to reach you, especially if you're an elite-status flyer. These are the times that top elite status really can make the difference between getting a seat and being left behind.
7) Remember that this is one of the weeks that we business travelers are outnumbered at the airports. So everything--security lines, boarding, disembarking, baggage collection--is going to go slower. And you'll be dealing with a lot of travelers who simply don't know where to go or what to do. Keep your calm. They're not bad people, just inexperienced at what we frequent travelers take for granted.
8) Load up on diversions and make sure your phones, laptops and tablets have all the reading material and musical and video diversions you could want.
9) Please do not cut off your nose to spite your frequent-flying face. Have as many club memberships as you can afford (and maybe some you can't afford). Waiting it out at the airport is really less stressful if you've got club access. See the appropriate links here. Worst case: Buy your way in on a one-time basis.
10) Make sure you know the appropriate social-media links for your preferred airlines and airports. Most carriers now post to Twitter and Facebook faster than they update their own Web sites. Finding this stuff is not rocket science. Simply google the airline or airport name and Facebook or Twitter and you'll locate it fast.
11) Finally, bookmark the FlightStats.com Global Cancellation and Delay page. It really helps to know the lay of the land...er...skies.
If we don't talk before then, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah! Now we know the chaos that develops when these two holidays collide. And you thought it was gonna be all tur-brisk-a-fil!
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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.