Airlines Issue Flight Waivers As Winter Storm Moves Across the U.S. Ahead of Holiday Travel — What to Do If Your Flight Is Affected

The disruptive weather comes as the TSA expects travelers to head to the airport in droves, nearly matching pre-pandemic levels.

Travelers arrive for flights at O'Hare International Airport.

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A major storm is forecast to hit several parts of the country this week, even threatening the Midwest with a bomb cyclone and potentially disrupting what is expected to be a busy holiday travel week

The storm, which first started unleashing snow in the Northwest, is now moving east and is expected to dump wintry weather across the Midwest with storm warnings issued for Kansas City, St. Louis, and Minneapolis, and blizzard warnings issued to the west of the Twin Cities, AccuWeather reported. The storm is expected to turn into a bomb cyclone when the low pressure area “undergoes rapid strengthening and allows the barometric pressure of the storm to fall at least 0.71 of an inch (24 millibars) in 24 hours.”

“A powerful winter storm [and] arctic front will produce significant impacts that include extreme cold, heavy snow, damaging winds, [and] even heavy rainfall across much of the western two-thirds of the county through the holiday weekend,” the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center tweeted. “Dangerous travel is expected for many areas.”

Several airlines have already issued travel waivers for the storms, including Delta Air Lines, which issued one for the Pacific Northwest, for the Northwest mountain region, for the Atlantic and Northeast region, and for the Midwest and Central Plains. Other airlines have also issued several winter weather travel waivers, including United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and more.

In the Northeast, the storm is expected to bring frigid temperatures, strong winds, and intense rain this week, according to AccuWeather. Temperatures are forecast to rapidly drop from Friday afternoon into Friday night, in some cases dropping 30 to 50 degrees in just several hours.

"This is about as extreme of a temperature drop there can be in the Northeast," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.

The disruptive weather comes as the Transportation Security Administration expects travelers to head to the airport in droves, nearly matching pre-pandemic levels.

That will also likely result in flight problems. Travelers who do experience a significant delay or cancellation should be prepared by knowing their options and their rights. The first step is to be informed by checking the flight status or signing up for email, text, or in-app alerts. Some third-party websites or apps also monitor flights for cancellations or delays, like Flighty or FlightAware.

If a flight is impacted by either a weather or airline-caused issue, travelers need to know what their options are. To that end, the Department of Transportation launched a new website detailing airline compensation policies over the summer that details everything from meal vouchers to overnight hotel room policies.

Travelers who want to re-book can often do so in-person at an airport help desk or either over the phone, over text, or online. Or better yet, try the international customer service line, Katy Nastro, a travel expert with Scott’s Cheap Flights, told T+L.

“Just because you are flying domestic, doesn't mean the exact same scenario is affecting other parts of the world,” Nastro said. “So while everyone might be trying the US customer service line, you'll most likely get to an agent faster by trying one of the foreign lines where the agents can help you all the same.”

Nastro added travelers should also be aware of “interline agreements” that allow airlines to put travelers on a different carrier. 

“For instance, if your United flight from Chicago to NYC gets canceled and the airline doesn’t have any empty seats until the next day, see if they will put you on, say, an American flight,” Nastro said. “While there’s no guarantee, it never hurts to ask, especially if getting rebooked (free of charge) would save you a half-day or more of waiting.”

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