Lonely Planet Writer

How to handle delays, cancellations and compensation if your travel plans are disrupted

Recent extreme weather and natural disasters have left some travellers with disrupted plans for trips to the affected regions in the Caribbean, Mexico and southern coastal US. On ensuring everyone travelling in your group is safe, what can you do about rearranging plans, or claiming back the money you have spent on flights and accommodation? Here’s a quick guide on where you stand with your travel plans.

Thousands of flights have been cancelled due to adverse weather. Image by Getty

Travel Insurance

According to TravelInsurance.com  if you have an existing travel insurance policy, check to see if it includes trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage.  If so, you will be refunded for the following:

  • Evacuation at your destination due to natural disaster
  • Severe weather that causes an airport to shut down
  • Accommodation if the destination is uninhabitable
  • Travel delays that cause you to miss more than 50% of your trip

“Weather at this time of year is always unpredictable and, unfortunately, can ruin vacations that have been planned months, and at times even years, in advance,” according to Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com. Since we are only halfway through the Atlantic hurricane season, travel insurance is highly recommended at the time of booking. It’s important to know that once a storm is named, travel insurance can no longer be purchased to cover that storm.

Airlines offer options when a flight is cancelled. Image by Getty

The only available option after a hurricane has been named is a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) upgrade, which allows the insured to cancel their trip for any reason but only receive up to 75% reimbursement. CFAR is only an option when the policy is bought within a set number of days of when a trip is booked.

Flights

With American Airlines alone having cancelled more than 2200 flights this weekend, there are thousands of passengers being forced to make alternative arrangements. Airlines are not obliged to compensate passengers or provide hotel accommodation for those stranded, as hurricanes and earthquakes are deemed Acts of God, and not within the airlines control.

But airlines do go over and above in their efforts to look after customers who have bookings with them. American Airlines are allowing anyone impacted to rebook without additional fees. If a flight has been cancelled or delayed, customers are entitled to apply for a refund on the airline’s website. The airline has also announced it is capping fares at $99 for passengers returning to the areas affected by the hurricane for a week from 10 September.

Similarly, Delta Airlines is offering a refund on any flights that are delayed (over 90 minutes) or cancelled as a result of the hurricane.  And JetBlue has dropped the price of a one-way ticket for people looking to leave cities that are in the path of Hurricane Irma, with prices ranging from $99 – $159 up to 13 September.

Hotels

Hotels built in the path of Atlantic hurricanes are anxious not to add to guests’ stress at this time and are likely to have hurricane protection policies as, sadly, such cancellations are becoming a regular occurrence.

A sand seawall is placed in front of a hotel on the island of Saint-Martin, Caribbean. Image by Getty

Hilton Hotels who have properties in the Caribbean and South Florida have said they will waive cancellation penalties for anyone who has bookings from 5 to 12 September. Marriott Hotels have said they are waiving hotel cancellations and change fees for any hurricane-prone hotels, but guests are advised to check with their individual hotels.

Disneyland Florida

According the official Disney website, if a hurricane warning is issued within seven days of your arrival date, you can call and cancel or reschedule your holiday and hotel (if booked with Disney direct) without incurring any cancellation fees. The theme parks did shut down in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew hit, and it is currently not known what will happen this weekend, but the company has said that Disney’s Blizzard Beach Waterpark and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Waterpark are closed for the next three days, with further updates being posted on the Disney website.

Travellers are being urged not to travel to any of the affected areas for the next three – five days, and for anyone making a booking to travel anytime up until November, travel insurance at the time of booking is highly advisable.