How to cancel your airfare

[Midday model update: GFS has pulled south. CMC stays south. NAM still bullish, but is alone in that assessment. And the short-range model may paste a bit of snow on to the trail tonight, but that may melt on contact, although could cool down the base a bit. I’d say there’s a 25% chance of all-out cancelation, a 70% chance of some sort of open track event, and a 5% chance of a timed race.]

So in addition to skiing and weather, I can get a bit excitable about airfares, and how to navigate around them*. In fact, this website originally was focused on information for out-of-towners for whom getting to the Birkie is a bit more complicated than pointing the car north on I-35. And if you’re scheduled to fly to the Birkie, but you think spending $300 or $400 to go to what may or may not be a ski race or a ski in the woods or potentially nothing is not a great use of your money, you’re in luck: the impending storm which will hit Minneapolis (and maybe the Birkie, but that looks less and less likely) has created a travel waiver which should let you cancel your flight without paying any fees.

Now “should” and “will” are two different things. Officially, the airlines will only let you change your flight to a different day. However, my experience (and that of another skier) are that they will let you cancel it if you ask nicely (since it’s in their interest not to have people marooned at the airport in a blizzard). The easiest way to do this, I’ve found, is through Twitter: generally a lot easier than spending time on the phone. But the phone works too. If at first you don’t get through, ask for a supervisor, and they’ll find someone who can cancel it.

And if they won’t, they’ll certainly let you change your flight. This page has always suggested flying Thursday (for this very reason), but you may actually want to change your flight to Friday. Why? Because that’s the most likely to be canceled. If you can figure out if a flight generally starts in Minneapolis, flies out and then back in, as long as it’s canceled or delayed an hour, they’ll give you your money back. That’s kind of a game, and the airlines should be amenable to canceling your flight beforehand (they think MSP might get hit hard enough, and the fewer people they have to fly in and out of there, in their opinion, the better) so use this to your advantage.

And if Uncle Ari over here at BirkieGuide saved you a cool few hundred dollars, remember to make a donation to the ABSF (in addition to your race fee) so they can have an even better Birkie next year. And go out and buy some skis or poles (my ticket costs a pair of Triacs, so there’s that.) Oh, and my email is if you want to Paypal or Venmo a bit of thanks!

( * Case in point: a few weeks ago a friend was scheduled to fly from DEN-BOS but her flight was canceled due to weather, and the carrier wouldn’t have gotten her to her destination for two days. The only flight she could take was something like $900. I advised her to buy a cheap flight that was also likely to be canceled the day of the storm [it was], and to then use the travel waiver to change on to the flight she wanted but which was much more expensive.)

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