We donâ€™t have to tell anyone who has traveled by air in the first two months of the year that the winter of 2015 has been a very challenging time for airlines and travelers. The nation, particularly the northeast, has endured one severe winter storm after another that has had a crippling impact on air travel. In February alone, airlines suffered 22,335 cancellations and 76,606 delays. That means hundreds of thousands of passengers affected: missed flights, long airport lines and unanticipated overnight stays. While we canâ€™t controlÂ the weather, we are there to assist our travelers who experienceÂ problems during winter weather travel.
(Post-publishing update: The last day of February actually brought several thousand more cancellations and delays, making the monthly totals 29,183 and 78,136, respectively!)
At Covington Travel, itâ€™s all hands on deck in a weather emergency. Even when our physical office locations are in the weather zone, Covington remains fully staffed with travel advisors. We have technology in place to allow agents to work remotely, but many of our dedicated team members still brave their own adverse conditions to get into the office. Mike LeBlanc, Operations Manager of our Charlottesville office explained that most of the Charlottesville staff lives a distance from the office. â€śDuring one of the storms one of our advisors thought ahead to bring a change of clothes and offered to stay in town so she could be here first thing in the morning to help.â€ť
The airlines normally relax their exchange and cancellation restrictions during weather incidents, and often advise us of the affected airports a day or so ahead of the expected time frame. We pull reports of tickets weâ€™ve issued for the affected destinations and contact those travelers to proactively protect reservations with alternate flights. We reaccommodate as many travelers as possible in advance because once cancellations and delays actually begin, the availability for substitute flights drastically decreases as all impacted travelers attempt to change their arrangements at once.
Special waivers are necessary to reissue the affected airline ticket without penalty, so airline call volume skyrockets with travelers needing assistance. Covington obtains these waivers on behalf of our clients, so you donâ€™t have to stand in impossibly long lines at the airport ticket counter or hold on the phone for the airline. In the last week 11.9% of the total airline tickets Covington issued were refunds or exchanges, some days as high as 25%!
Many times, however, the transaction still requires airline authorization and the airlines are simply overwhelmed with thousands of calls, so lengthy hold times ensue â€“ up to three hours! For our advisors, that kind of wait when you have so many travelers in need is frustrating and tries oneâ€™s patience, but itâ€™s all worthwhile when we get a heartfelt thank you from a grateful client â€“ and we get them all the time:
â€śI appreciate your assistance greatly.Â This is why travel agents
(especially you) are better than online!!â€ť
– Sara Marchello,Â The College of William and Mary
Wouldnâ€™t you rather weÂ make that call for you, too?
Of course, even our stalwart staff canâ€™t be available 24/7, so Covington has an emergency helpline that assists Covington clients during after-hours. For most of the month of February they have operated in â€śStorm Alertâ€ť status with mandatory overtime for their agents and a dedicated Weather Desk to make those long-hold phone calls to the airlines. Making this committed resource available to our clients is another way Covington supports our travelers during weather incidents.
We feel your pain when weather disrupts your travel plans! We understand your frustrations and appreciate your patience as we reaccommodate and protect your travel arrangements during weather disruptions. Our teams of travel advisors work tirelessly, both in-house and remotely, for our business and vacation travelers and we want to work for you, too.
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