As much as travelers like to think they know what is best for them, sometimes trusting their travel agent is the best plan, especially when bad weather is rolling in.
In January, Diane Bean, luxury travel advisor at Off on Vacation in Bangor, Maine, had booked a couple and their adult daughter on a $5,000 Disney World package through American Airlines Vacations, long before the Weather Channel started warning New Englanders that the Northeast was in for some late winter nor’easters.
The couple were scheduled to depart on American from Bangor, on March 3, to visit friends in Fort Myers, Florida, before driving up to meet their college-age daughter in Orlando the following week. As the weather system moved through the Northeast, thousands of flights were being canceled, sending a cascade of delays and disruptions to travel plans well into the weekend.
The nor’easter had a unique impact on smaller airports like Bangor, given that with fewer flights there, rebooking passengers is more difficult, and can make alternative plans more complex. But if it hadn’t been for their travel agent, Diane Bean, they may have had to deal with those unpleasant complications.
Travel agents know best
At the time of the booking, Bean made certain that the couple had purchased seats, rather than just holding a ticket.
“Many people refuse because they have already paid for the airfare and they don't want to pay extra for "seats," trusting they will be assigned one at the airport,” Bean said. “I told them, ‘no can do. This time of the year you can't take a chance with the weather.’ They agreed and I bought their seats (for $48). “
Sure enough, when the couple got to the airport, their American flight to Philadelphia was overbooked by six passengers and American was offering upwards of $2,500 per person to anyone willing to be rebooked on a later date. With dinner reservations, Disney Fast Passes and other plans committed to, the couple didn’t want to take the bait.
As they were boarding, the couple texted Diane to thank her. “That’s why you’re the BEST!!! Thank you!”
They made their flight and were able to enjoy their friends’ company that evening and the next couple of days before they were to drive their rental car to Orlando to pick up their daughter.
Second nor’easter roars in
As bad luck would have it, the couple’s daughter was scheduled to depart on Mar. 6, as the second consecutive nor’easter rolled up the Atlantic seaboard.
“I had been monitoring the weather and made certain that my clients had instructed their daughter to put my number on her phone,” Bean said.
On Tuesday, Bean was notified that the daughter’s flight was going to be canceled. While Bangor’s weather would be fine on Wednesday, her connection through Philadelphia wouldn’t be. The nor’easter arrived much earlier that day, eventually causing American and the other airlines there to cancel nearly 300 flights and delay another 160.
She scrambled, calling Allegiant, which had a flight from Clearwater to Bangor, skirting the storm system by not having to connect anywhere. Bean was able to secure the daughter a one-way ticket for about $400 and confirm that American wouldn’t cancel her return trip through Washington Dulles International.
"Their daughter wasn't leaving yesterday and she was to fly to Orlando, take the Disney Express to Disneyworld and meet up with them. Her AA flight was canceled Tuesday as she was to land in Philly and that wasn't happening. I anticipated that happening so I was watching the availability on the Allegiant flight from Bangor to Clearwater. $400 for the Allegiant flight.
“So long story short,” Bean said, “they are all at Disney World enjoying their Fast Passes and scheduled dining reservations with the Mouse in 80-degree sunshine, as I sit here in a white-out blizzard in 30-degree weather.”
All in a day’s work for an experienced travel agent.