How to Navigate Winter Storm Flight Delays

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Photographer: Andrew Holt/Getty Images

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Photographer: Andrew Holt/Getty Images

When a snowstorm cancels your flight and you need to get on an alternate flight to your destination, FlightStats can be your best friend. Here's how to use it:

Suss out which alternate flights have available seats. Go to FlightStats, sign up for an account, click on the "Flights" drop-down menu, choose "Flight Availability," and click on the "Advanced" search option. This allows you to specify an airline as well as a connecting city—so you can punch in the airline you're flying and a connecting city that's storm-free. Find the seats you need (unfortunately, American Airlines flight options aren't shown), then phone the airline to get them. If the airline's phone lines are jammed and you're stuck on hold, try calling one of the airline's overseas reservations desks (say, in the United Kingdom, Germany, or Australia; use Skype so that the call is cheap).

Find out which storm-free airport to connect through so you can get to your destination. At FlightStats, open the drop-down menu under "Delays" and click on "Global Trends." You'll see which airports are suffering from the most cancellations and delays—and, importantly, which are not. Note which large hub airports are having the fewest cancellations and delays. (You can also go to the "Airports" drop-down menu, click on "Airport Tracker," punch in a big, clear-weather airport such as Los Angeles International or Las Vegas, and see what it says under "Current Airport Delays"; both those airports currently have "very low delays.") Try to reroute yourself through a huge airport with clear weather, even if the airport is not in the linear path to your destination. If you're headed from east to west, for instance, Las Vegas is often a good option, since it's got plenty of flights out, as well as inexpensive hotels. In other words, instead of sitting around Boston for four days trying in vain to get on a flight to Seattle, try to fly to Vegas and from there to your destination the next day.

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