Q. I am stranded in New York due to Hurricane Sandy. My flight has been cancelled by Virgin. I have my mobile phone but calls are so expensive and I was on hold to Virgin for almost an hour last night before I got cut off. I have to vacate my apartment at 11am this morning and have nowhere to go, and no idea when Virgin can fly me home. There is no public transport so getting anywhere is very difficult. Any advice?
A. You are among tens of thousands of passengers stranded on either side of the Atlantic by the wholesale cancellation of flights as a result of Hurricane Sandy. On Monday, Virgin Atlantic, BA and other airlines, cancelled almost all flights to and from the key airports of Boston, New York JFK, Newark and Washington DC. BA also cancelled its Philadelphia and Baltimore flights.
Once schedules revert to normal, the bad news is that you and your fellow passengers will be at the back of the queue; Virgin says it is considering additional flights, "As well as securing seats on other carriers where possible". Even so, it will take some days to clear the backlog. So what do you do in the meantime?
The good news is that Virgin Atlantic has a duty of care to provide accommodation and meals in the event of disruption at an American airport; US airlines do not. Because Virgin has thousands of passengers out of situation, it is not in a good position to organise this for you, but during previous episodes of disruption it has allowed passengers to make their own arrangements and then claim refunds. Of course, you should keep all receipts.
It may well be that your accommodation provider is willing to extend your booking, or can recommend something close by; after all, many apartments and hotel rooms are empty because the booked guests cannot reach New York.
You will need to stay in touch with Virgin to find out about your journey home; to save your mobile phone bill, use the US toll-free number from a landline: 1 800 862 8621 ("You may experience longer than normal call waiting times for which we apologise," warns the airline) or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your journey details.