(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

Opinion | Stay on schedule: What you should keep in mind while travelling in bad weather

Keep a check on airlines’ social media handles for details on diversions, delays or cancellations

The recent incessant rains across the country caused many aircraft-related incidents, the most prominent one of which was in Mumbai, where a SpiceJet 737-800 aircraft overshot the runway on landing and got stuck in the mud for over three days. Due to this, the main runway at Mumbai airport was out of service, and many flights were cancelled or diverted. I was to fly back to Mumbai on an Air India flight after the SpiceJet incident but instead cancelled that flight for free and booked myself on the next morning’s flight, which arrived in the city before time. Here is what you need to keep in mind when you are flying through rain or fog around India.

While it is almost impossible to account for weather when you book your flight tickets, you could easily get yourself some tools to stay on top of things while you are travelling. A powerful tool is FlightRadar24 or FlightAware. These websites/apps track the live locations of planes, and most airlines update the details of the aircraft registration number from a few hours to up to a day before the flight, so you can track the location of your plane, and whether it is delayed. In my case, FlightRadar24 was able to tell me about the delay of the Air India flight two hours before the airline informed me. You can keep a tab on the social media handles of the airline you are flying for details on any flight delays/cancellations/diversions, and you can chat with them there for more details. IndiGo and Vistara do a good job putting information out on Twitter. If an airline makes a waiver, it tends to get pushed out on social media first, even before the airline’s website.

Again, using my example, Air India eventually put a waiver on flight changes and cancellations on all flights coming into and going out of Mumbai on 3 July due to the situation at the Mumbai airport, and that helped me cancel the three Air India tickets of my family for free and book another airline for next morning. The AI flight took off about 4.5 hours late, so I did alright not to waste my time at the airport in this case.

If you find yourself stuck due to flight cancellation, you deserve to get assigned a seat on another flight pronto before all the seats on the next flight run out. In many cases, the airline would want to assign you to another flight of their own airline, but remember, they can always put you on another airline as well. Websites such as ExpertFlyer give you live information about seat availability if the airline sells through the global distribution system. When you have this information, you are in a better negotiating position with the airline agent rather than just taking information from them and having to decide in a jiffy about your next move.

Another must-do is to get airport lounge access. Most lounges in India allow access on a pay-per-use model; the charges start from 600. You can also get Priority Passes, which assure unlimited access to 1,200 lounges across the world; many credit cards offer free access. Cards like Citi Prestige, American Express Platinum Charge Card, HDFC Bank Infinia and Diners Club Black offer benefits like unlimited free lounge access across the globe, including India, so that you can wait in peace for your disrupted flight.

Lastly, always keep an eye on the flight monitors. Flight delays are posted on display monitors first, and also the change of status to when the flight will start boarding. It is essential to be the good citizen and make it to the flight on time so that the plane gets out while it has the opportunity in a weather-related situation. Sometimes, you will have to wait inside the plane, but if you don’t board on time, the flight may get further delayed or cancelled.

Elevate Your Travel is a column for business travellers by a business traveller.

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