Travellers are feeling the effects of the recent winter storm that slammed the USA’s East Coast, with over 7,000 flights cancelled and chaos set to continue with more wintery weather expected.
Experts are saying the biggest disruptions are likely to affect busy airports serving New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.
The hardest hit over the past few days was New York’s JFK airport, where local media reports have described the airport as having had an operational “meltdown” in the wake of the storm.
Flight chaos continues to confuse Aussies on where they stand when it comes to scheduled flights not taking off. Hundreds of hopeful holiday-makers have been affected by the flight delays and cancellations, but few have a good understanding of their entitlements.
“Good news for those already with travel insurance - if your flights are delayed or cancelled due to the severe weather conditions you may have provision to claim,” Comparetravelinsurance.com.au's Natalie Ball said.
"If you do experience a flight cancellation you’d be insured for any pre-paid expenses should you be unable to receive compensation from your airline. Depending upon your policy purchased, you'll also be reimbursed for any additional expenses such as your meals and accommodation if you're delayed for more than a six-hour period."
What are your options if your flights are delayed/cancelled?
If your trip is affected, your first port of call should be to contact your travel agent or travel provider regarding altering your trip. If it is the airlines fault, they should be accountable to provide you with the service for which you have paid and are likely to offer penalty free options. The same logic as buying any other service that has not been delivered to you applies. If your flight didn’t take off, you should be entitled to compensation or get your money back from the airline.
Then if that fails, turn to your travel insurance policy.
What do you do if you have connecting flights with another airline?
Should you have a connecting flight to catch with the same airline, it would be their responsibility to find you the fastest alternative flight to meet your connection. If your flights are with different airlines though, it is uncertain whether you would receive due compensation from the original carrier. This is where travel insurance may come to the rescue. If you have a comprehensive policy and have a planned event to reach, travel insurance will often reimburse you for the cost of alternative transport to reach your event on time.
What if I’m stuck in the USA and can’t get home?
For those travellers stranded in the USA that need to extend their accommodation there may be provision to claim for reasonable additional travel expenses if you cannot continue your journey due to the bad weather.
Can I choose to cancel my holiday because of the bad weather?
Wanting to cancel due to a sense of anxiety would not be covered advises Ball.
“Travel insurance does not cover you for change of mind so unless your pre-paid travels are directly affected by the bad weather you would most likely not have eligibility to claim.”