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Stranded flyers are better off waiting out the storm before changing their flight or aiming for later dates as the usual $150 fee will only be waived for first-time changes on most major airlines.

Hurricane Sandy, Frankenstorm–whatever you want to call it, travelers can call it a mess.

IAD Departure Board

Over 7,000 flights have been cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Raymond June.

Most of the East Coast is hunkered down, and that includes the airlines. Joe Brancatelli, who writes the “Joe Sent Me” travel newsletter and keeps a close eye on all things that have to do with flying, said in an email Sunday night that American Airlines had shut down operations at eight airports in the East: the Washington area airports (Baltimore, Dulles and Reagan National) and New York (JFK, LaGuardia and Newwark, N.J.); Philadelphia; and Norfolk, Va.

Airlines have posted information on waivers–that is, they will waive the usual change fee if you want to change your travel plans. There are restrictions: Airlines set dates so that you can’t, say, book a ticket after a certain date and then change it. (The same is true of travel insurance: You can’t buy insurance after an event is in progress and then try to collect on it.)

Many of the airlines are saying they won’t be flying until Wednesday. That means if you need to be rebooked, the phone lines are going to be jammed. So pack some patience.

And because airlines have reduced capacity and load factors are high to begin with (more than 80%, according to the most recent Bureau of Transportation Statistics), you will be scrambling for a seat.

Brian Kelly, who founded the website noted last week that the best customers–that is, the elite fliers–are probably going to get help first. And he suggested caring and understanding when dealing with harried airline agents — and not just during an emergency. The agents, he said, deal with unhappy people all day long; in this case, being pleasant may set you apart.

Meanwhile, here are waiver policies at some of the major airlines:


American: Travel policies and and plans to alleviate travel snarls





Virgin America

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Tags: delays, natural disasters, sandy

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