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'Prepare for the worst': Travel experts warn passengers need to plan ahead this holiday season

Staffing shortages and weather are being blamed for major airline cancellations over the weekend.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hundreds of flights were canceled over the weekend and travel experts say those cancellations and delays are likely to happen this upcoming holiday season. 

“I was mad,” said Chad Gonzales who was traveling to Oregon from Columbus. “Oh, I was so mad because I took this morning. I could have taken the 4:20 flight. I could the morning flight because I didn't want to lose the whole day. Who wants to fly in at 12 o'clock at night?”

Gonzales is from Lima. He said his flight out of Columbus at 6 a.m. Monday was canceled and he found out minutes before boarding.

Melissa Jackson from Columbus said she is thankful to be home after having her original flight from New York canceled Sunday morning.

She rebooked on another airline -- and had to fly from New York to Tampa to Columbus.

Jackson and Gonzales are two people among the many who had to rebook flights on another airline over the weekend.

Staffing shortages and weather were being blamed for the cancellations. Travel experts say this is a sign of what's to come.

"Prepare for the worst. Prepare to be canceled or delayed,” said Kimberly Schwind a AAA spokeswoman.

Schwind said consider alternative plans ahead of time, like making sure your vehicle is road trip ready and you can drive to your destination if you have to.

She said if your flight gets canceled, you need to act fast.

“Get in line at the airport at the counter but while you're in line at the counter call the airlines,” she explained. “Even tweet the airlines. Do everything you can to get yourself re-booked on that next flight or call your travel agent make sure that you're taking those steps to get rebooked because the inventory is much lower.”

She said you can ask if they can re-book you on another flight with another airline.

Robert Elking from Grandview Travel in Columbus said you could also buy a ticket yourself for another airline and then you can ask for a refund on the original ticket. He warned you need to be prepared to pay more though. A lot more. The new ticket may be more expensive at the last minute.

According to the Department of Transportation, you're entitled to a refund if the airline canceled your flight, regardless of the reason, and you choose not to travel.

Experts agree the best thing you can do is to be prepared ahead of time and that might mean reading the fine print. 

For example, if you have travel insurance, don't assume flight delays and cancellations are covered. It's important to check with your provider to see exactly what's covered.

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