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What winter storm?

Looking out on a sunny day aboard Virgin America (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out on a sunny day aboard Virgin America (Chris McGinnis)

Here I sit in my home office perch looking out the (open) bay window at a balmy 60 degree day watching coatless pedestrians meander along sunny sidewalks. A pack of busy carpenters and framers are in short sleeves at the house under construction across the street.

On days like this, most Bay Area Travelers are likely more concerned about our lack of rain this winter than the snow and freezing temps back East. But with a major winter storm altering flight plans for thousands this week, here’s what Bay Area Travelers need to know:

>Flights from the Bay Area to the Midwest and Northeast were affected by snow over the weekend, but now schedules are mostly back to normal according to SFO’s flight boards. Yes, there are a handful of cancellations today (just 14 departures canceled according to SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel), but most flights between the Bay Area and  New York, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere are operating. However, delays for New York JFK departures today have been in the two-hour range.

>Most of the misery is concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast. If you have plans to travel within this area, expect trouble, delays and despair for at least the next two days. Most flights to or from the affected area to or from Bay Area Airports should operate on schedule.

Current tempuratures (The Weather Channel)

Daytime temperatures on Monday (The Weather Channel)

>While the snowstorms have mostly cleared out, outlandishly cold temperatures are now affecting flight operations. De-icing airplanes and runways in extreme temperatures is going to take time. Good news: According to FlightStats, there were 5,684 flight cancellations today, but only 1055 are expected for tomorrow.

>If you are flying up or down the West Coast, you should expect nothing unusual. If flying United, it’s probably a good idea to check on your flight since the plane intended for the route could be ensnared in a frigid trap back east.

>Even if your flight does get canceled, you’ll likely be re-accommodated with relative ease. Luckily, we are in the midst of the “dead weeks” in the travel industry- the period of lowest demand all year-- which means more seats available for travelers faced with irregular operations.

>If you have reservations on SF-based Virgin America, you should be fine. Spokesperson Abby Lunardini told The BAT: “We had some delays over weekend and some trailing delays today on the East Coast, but nothing major. We expect to operate a full schedule today and tomorrow.

>If you are flying JetBlue over the next two days, you will likely be affected. The airline announced that it is shutting down operations Boston, New York JFK, La Guardia and Newark this evening and will re-start at 10 am Tuesday, hoping to be fully operational by 3 pm. It’s going to take a while for JetBlue’s network to re-set and get back to normal.

>Despite a cancellation rate of near 70% at Indianapolis International, United’s  inaugural SFO-Indy flight #317 is scheduled to depart on time tomorrow (Tues) at 1:35pm and arrive at 8:35 pm according to the United website. While I’ve not been able to confirm that the flight is a go or not, the plane might fly empty- roads to and from the airport are still treacherous.

Have your plans been affected by this storm… or not? Please leave your comments below. 

- Chris McGinnis

And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month:

12 wishes for better Bay Area travel in 2014

Are you a “data traveler?”

Virgin SFO-LaGuardia + AA’s newest jet + Global Entry delays + more

Best/worst days for holiday trips

New terminal at SFO: hard hat tour (photos)

16 brand new, must see NYC hotels

Update: United p.s. fleet SFO-JFK

Asia on sale + PreCheck newbies + United wi-fi + Free airport parking + Nancy Pelosi

Virgin first class sale + Hilton HHonors downgrade + Chase Sapphire w chip + United dumps ExpertFlyer

More A380s + Cathay discounts biz class + SJC courts Asia + Double Elevate pts

>Southwest FINALLY joins PreCheck

>United to allow handhelds below 10K feet

>Travel advice fit for a Queen (Latifah!)

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Airlines waive fees as storm approaches NYC, NE

Heavy wet snow and gale force winds are expected in NYC and NE over the next 3 days

United and Delta  are waiving change fees for passengers booked to fly November 6-8 to/from or through New York City and other Northeastern airports due to the approaching winter storm. I expect other airlines to follow suit by later this evening.

Here’s what United is saying:

United Airlines today announced the company will suspend most service to and from the New York area between noon Wednesday, Nov. 7, and noon Thursday, Nov. 8, as a result of the winter storm forecast for the region. Weather conditions will likely cause additional delays and cancellations at other northeast airports.

 

At Newark Liberty International Airport, between noon Wednesday and noon Thursday, the airline intends to operate its long-haul international flights and flights to and from the airline’s other hubs, but will suspend most of its remaining services.

 

At John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, United intends to operate most flights before noon, with all services then suspended through noon Thursday.

 

Where possible, United has proactively rebooked travelers ticketed with connections at Newark Liberty through the airline’s other hubs.

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SQ1 departs SFO at 10:50 pm and arrives in Hong Kong at 5:50 am two days later. Flight time is about 13 hours to Hong Kong, and with another 3.5 hours to Singapore, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the luxury and explore the 1000+ onboard entertainment options.  SQ2 arrives daily in SFO at 7:45 pm on the same day it departs from Singapore and Hong Kong.

 

My advice for travelers re Sandy

Hurricane Sandy at 8 am Monday. Landfall is expected late tonight and into tomorrow. (Screenshot from FlightAware.com)

This is going to be a tough week for business travel, no matter where you are headed.

That’s because the nation’s air travel network is deeply tied to getting people to or from the “Megalopolis” which extends from Washington DC to Boston. And the megalopolis is essentially shut down to air and rail travel today through at least Wednesday.

If you are flying anywhere this week- even if your itinerary does not have you anywhere near the Northeast, your flight could be affected due to the ripple effect of this storm. This means that the flight that you might be catching to fly from San Francisco to Chicago could be using a plane that is normally flying in from New York or Washington. And with Sandy bearing down on those airports and shutting them down…it’s likely that your plane won’t be arriving in San Francisco. You might end up on a different type of aircraft. Your seat assignment could be different. You might have to fly earlier or later than expected.

That is why it’s essential to stay in touch with your airline online (phoning is impossible) to monitor the situation. Other helpful resources are the flight delay maps at FlightStats or FlightAware.

I think the most important thing to remember during storms like this is that if your flight is cancelled, and you decide NOT TO TRAVEL AT ALL- meaning you decline any re-accommodations or waivers offered, and just zap the whole trip, you are entitled to a full refund from the airline. 

And that’s what I suggest you do if you have plans to travel to the Megalopolis this week. Your flight has likely been cancelled, so just don’t go,  give up your seat to someone who may really need it, take your refund and try again next week or next month.

Note: You are only entitled to a refund if you flight is cancelled- not simply delayed.  Also, if you are stranded by this storm, airlines are not required by law to provide you with overnight accommodations. Many will try to help, but remember, there is no federal statute that requires them to pay for hotels during force majeure events like this. 

Based on the severity and duration of this storm, I do not expect the air travel system to recover until this weekend, or early into next week. Currently, it appears that Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia are going to get the brunt of this storm. New York is going to get walloped, too- low lying La Guardia is especially susceptible to damage from a storm surge. Boston is still open this morning and might just get sideswiped.

Luckily, we are not in a peak travel period, so it will be somewhat easier for airlines to re-accommodate stranded travelers on flights that are not sold out. However, airlines have cut back on capacity so much in recent years, that empty seats are few and far between, so it’s going to take a while.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the fall weather, and don’t try to get to the megalopolis this week if you don’t have to.

Have you been affected by this storm yet? How have you been treated by the airlines? Please leave your storm stories below! 

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****

Sponsor:  

For a limited period, San Francisco passengers will have the opportunity to experience spacious luxury onboard the world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380 on flights to Asia.  Between December 28, 2012 and March 24, 2013, Singapore Airlines will pop into town with daily “Pop-Up” A380 flights between San Francisco and Singapore via Hong Kong.  Flip through this slideshow to see its famous Suites and the widest Business Class seats in the sky.

SQ1 departs SFO at 10:50 pm and arrives in Hong Kong at 5:50 am two days later. Flight time is about 13 hours to Hong Kong, and with another 3.5 hours to Singapore, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the luxury and explore the 1000+ onboard entertainment options.  SQ2 arrives daily in SFO at 7:45 pm on the same day it departs from Singapore and Hong Kong.

 

 

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