AAA offers winter weather tips for airline passengers

As cities along the East Coast prepare for a winter storm over the next few days, AAA offers defensive flying tips to passengers to make their trips less stressful.

“Similar to driving defensively during winter weather, airline travelers need to be alert and ready to deal with unexpected problems,” according to Bevi Powell, Senior Vice President, AAA East Central. “Preparation before you leave your home could save you hours of stress after you arrive at the airport,” she added.

AAA offers the following tips:

KNOW THE LIMITATIONS ON YOUR TICKET. The airline’s contract of carriage does not require it to provide passengers with any additional services when flights are delayed or canceled due to bad weather. This is different from situations where flights are delayed for mechanical or other reasons.

GO ONLINE BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME. Check the airline website for delays before leaving home and sign up for e-mail alerts from your airline. When planning a trip, travelers can check up-to-date airline performance using the Air Travel Consumer Reports at Also, check with the Transportation Security Administration,, for the latest airport security rules. Travelers can also check a flight’s delay history at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Web site,

PACK DEFENSIVELY. Come to the airport prepared for a delayed flight. That means bringing portable entertainment such as books, music or video games. In addition, make sure you have prescriptions, credit cards, your travel itinerary with flight numbers, driver’s license and/or passport, glasses, various electronics chargers and toiletries in a carry-on bag. In order to expedite the process of passing through security, remember the Transportation Security Administration’s 3-1-1 carry-on policy: Three-ounce bottles or less; one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; one bag per passenger.

DON’T SHOW UP HUNGRY. Eat before you go so you are not waiting in line at the limited number of airport eateries. Also, bring food you can carry on and eat on the plane if you are stuck on the tarmac.

USE YOUR CELL PHONE TO SAVE TIME. Program numbers for your airline, hotel, car rental company, and your travel agent into your cell phone. In case you need to change your flight, you can call the airline directly rather than waiting in line at the ticket counter. Make sure you have the phone number for whoever is waiting for you at the airport so you can keep them posted about your situation.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TIME–SAVING SERVICES. Printing out your boarding pass at home from the airline’s Web site and using curbside check-in and ticket kiosks can save time when you are in hurry to get to your flight.

TAKE THE EARLIEST FLIGHT. Flight delays often ripple through the system, so the first flight in the morning is less likely to be delayed. If the first flight is delayed, you will have a better chance of catching a flight scheduled later the same day.

SOMETIMES SMALLER AIRPORTS ARE BETTER. You can get processed through security faster and have a much shorter walk to the gate as a result of smaller airports having fewer flights and fewer travelers.

REMEMBER TO ASK ABOUT AMENITIES. During extended flight delays, airline staff on the ground have the discretion to provide food and hotel vouchers, phone cards and snack boxes, so make sure to ask.

KNOW WHERE TO COMPLAIN. Travelers who have service issues with an airline should contact DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division: Consumers can call, write or e-mail the ACPD to register their concerns about airline service. The ACPD may be called 24 hours a day at 202-366-2220 (TTY 202-366-0511) to record a complaint.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 82 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.