Flying in winter? What you need to know.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 03/13/18 •  4 min read


Let me get this out of the way first: Mother Nature rules. She always gets her way. You just have to sit back, relax, and give her space to do her thing.

As skiers, we know this. As citizens of the 21st century who work pretty hard to bend Mother Nature to our collective will, it’s sometimes easy to forget.

Right now I’m holed up in a hotel room waiting for the the third Nor’easter in two weeks to haul out of New England so I can get on a plane for a Ski Diva gathering out west. I live three hours from Logan International, so we figured it’d be wiser to drive down last night and stay near the airport, rather than drive in today during the storm. The forecast is for 18″ of snow  (I’m almost sorry I’m not home in Vermont to enjoy the fresh pow), and our flight is scheduled for tomorrow. Mother Nature willing.

The chance of that happening? I’ll give it a strong……maybe. The storm is supposed to end tonight, so yes, there is a chance. It just depends on if the storm moves out to sea. And if they can clear the runways. And if our plane can get in. And if the flight crew can arrive. And a million other things that I can’t even name. But it’s still a possibility, so I’ll hang on to that.

So what do you do if you’re flying in winter?

Here are some things to do before you go:

Pre-pack. Make sure you have a carryon with  some essentials: toothpaste, clean underwear, medication, a phone charger, etc. That way, if some leg of your journey is cancelled, you’ll have a few important items with you.

And this may seem evident, but check your flight before you leave to make sure it’s still scheduled. This could save you a trip to the airport. Your best bet is your airline’s website. Or you might want to try This website bills itself as the world’s leading flight tracking data website and provides real time tracking maps for every single flight. Another option is The Federal Aviation Administration hosts a map that pinpoints which cities’ airports are generally showing significant delays or if an airport has closed.

But what if you get to the airport and your flight’s canceled?

If the customer service desk is crowded, call the airline on your cell. You might get through faster.

Know your rights. For domestic flights, US airlines are not obligated to compensate you for cancellations. If weather’s the problem, they must get on on the next available flight, but they’re not obligated to put you on another airline. If it’s non-weather related, they must put you on the next available flight.

Go online. If you used an online travel agency to book your reservation, try to reach them. And don’t forget about your  hotel or car reservations, either. Cancelled flights have a ripple effect, and your other travel providers may need to be notified, too. You can rebook, or they may give you a partial refund.

Find out if there’s a compensation package. You may be entitled to something: a hotel room, a refund. If you have a smart phone, an app called Hotel Tonight is a great way to find last minute hotel room.

More importantly, stay calm. You’ll think more clearly, and it’s a lot better for your general well being. Remember, there are things a lot worse that could happen. I know it’s hard to keep this in mind, but try.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ll get there, eventually. The Ski Divas are calling, and I must go.


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