Flying with Gustav: 5 things you need to know now


Think Hurricane Gustav won’t affect your travel plans? Think again. If you are planning to fly early next week, it probably won’t be business as usual.

Here are five things you need to know now:

1. Consider where the flight originated. When serious weather hits any part of the country, delays can snowball. That’s because planes — and crews — often originate in areas affected by a storm.

For Gustav, airlines are canceling flights preemptively, so they won’t have planes stuck on the ground in New Orleans. But that doesn’t mean the storm won’t affect other flights. Be sure to reconfirm your flight before heading to the airport.

2. Check in online. Airlines have cut staffing levels at the airports, and the agents that remain may well have their hands full with travelers trying to change their schedules around the storm.

3. Call early. If you need to make any phone calls about an upcoming trip — anything from changing a reservation to asking about bringing a pet along — do it early. Reservation lines will be jammed the closer the storm gets.

4. Don’t wait until the last minute. This is not the time to cut it close. Airlines are being generous about allowing travelers in the storm area to make changes, but with limited flights, this may mean putting them on double connections.

So someone trying to fly from say New Orleans to Los Angeles might well end up being routed through Chicago and Denver. Which means that something like a Chicago-Denver flight might be overbooked. Don’t give the airlines an excuse to give your seat away.

5. Good vibes. Whether you believe in God, Karma, or the randomness of the universe, send good thoughts or prayers to the people of New Orleans. They need them.