Lemme outta here!
Weather weary New Yorkers are eager to escape the relentless lash of winter by booking vacations, but those with current escape plans have some, umm, problems.
Whenever the mercury plunges, customers book trips for warm weather destinations "like the Bahamas and the Caribbean," said Jonathan Garcia, a travel coordinator for First in Service Travel. He estimates business is up about 20%.
"The Caribbean and Mexico definitely stand out - people are going for places that have direct flights from NYC, added Emily Meredith Prentiss, a leisure travel consultant at Valerie Wilson Travel.
And NYC deserters aren't just snowbirds seeking sun and surf. "All the ski fanatics are heading out west because the snow has been so great," in areas such as Utah, Prentiss noted.
But Mother Nature is full of practical jokes. At the very time people are motivated to flee their icy environs, flights are being delayed and even cancelled, en masse. Hundreds of flights have already been cancelled out of NYC for Friday and the weekend, noted Matthew Shephard-Lupo, a sales and marketing associate at Ovation Travel. (On Wednesday alone, 757 flights from LaGuardia, Newark and JFK were cancelled, according to FlightAware.com.)
Travel agents are swamped re-scheduling bookings for business travelers who must make meetings and leisure travelers eager to hit hot beaches. "We definitely suggest getting out early," when booking any winter flight to allow for likely delays, said Shephard-Lupo. A New York lawyer recently flew to San Francisco two days earlier than he intended because he had a can't-miss meeting and didn't want to risk getting waylaid. Another passenger had five flights cancelled within one hour: As soon as the agent rebooked, the flight was pulled from the roster.
"Travel insurance is something we recommend to all our clients: Depending on the policy, it can cover inclement weather," said Prentiss.
Bad weather in NYC also means that travelers with connecting flights in JFK, LaGuardia or Newark may find themselves with an extra day or two to see the City that Never Weeps for You But May Cut You a Break if You Are Stranded. "We have hotels that give us 'snow day rates' for people stuck in NYC," said Garcia. Discounts are sometimes as high as 50%, he said.
Jet-grounding weather events can increase wait times for airline customer service call centers to as much as an hour, said Shephard-Lupo, who added that our seemingly endless winter storm clouds do, indeed, contain some silver linings. As the weather-created travel hassles snowball, more people are hiring travel agents to do the time-sucking dirty work of rebooking and rerouting itineraries. This ucky, mucky winter has not only helped his industry, said Shephard-Lupo, "it's revitalizing it!"