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How to handle weather-cancelled flights

9:40 AM, Dec 27, 2012   |    comments
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Crowded ticket counter at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport

ATLANTA -- The winter weather caused nearly 1,600 flight cancellations across the country Wednesday. A small fraction of those were based out of Atlanta, but certainly travelers should be aware of what they can do in the event of a cancellation.

And there's a lot they can do.

George Estelle, owner of the travel agency Trips With George, says, "If there's a weather-related travel or cancellation, typically the airline owes you nothing."

But, Estelle says, travelers can take numerous measures to be prepared, starting with when they buy their tickets. He suggests the following tips for travelers to make weather-based cancellations easier to bear:

Give the most up-to-date contact info. This is when you buy your ticket; give the airlines the proper phone and e-mail contacts, and they will often use those contacts in the event of the delay or cancellation. Also, consider signing up for travel alerts if booking through Orbitz.

Consider travel insurance. If you're flying during a typical severe-weather time, travel insurance can be a smart idea. The insurance company will handle hotel booking and other details in the event of a cancellation -- and reimburse you.

Lean on the Internet. This especially applies on the day of your flight. Check the weather, and check your flight status repeatedly; if it gets cancelled early, you might not have to come all the way to the airport.

Use your phone to reschedule flights. If you are at the airport, Estelle says, "The first thing you might want to do, when you notice everyone going over to the counter to reschedule, is to call the airline."

And if you live in the area, and the cancellation makes your trip unnecessary, the airlines will often let you out of it. "They'll actually give you a full refund," Estelle says. "They won't even make you take a credit for a full trip, so it's actually a really good policy to have."

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