(CNN Spanish) — The winter storm sweeping across the United States is expected to bring blizzards, snow and frost to a huge swath of the western and northern parts of the country, from California to New York and New England, and much of the Midwest. These effects are part of a multi-day event that has closed roads, caused numerous power outages and canceled thousands of flights.
As of 6:00 pm Miami time on Thursday, more than 1,100 flights had been canceled and more than 5,000 had been delayed in the US, according to the FlightAware flight tracking website. On Wednesday, the number of cancellations reached 1,775 and delayed flights exceeded 7,000.
More than 60 million people were under a winter weather alert as of early Thursday.
Southwest Airlines has issued winter weather waivers for a dozen airports.
Delta Air Lines has issued waivers for winter weather in the Upper Midwest and winter weather in the Rocky Mountain and Mountain regions.
American Airlines and United also issued winter weather waivers for travel this week.
But what happens when you are one of the unfortunate passengers whose flight was canceled or delayed? Here are some tips to help travelers navigate when flights are delayed or cancelled, whether due to understaffing, weather or other issues.
Avoid being stuck at the airport: As bad as it is to find out that your flight has been delayed for a long time, or even worse, that it has been cancelled, it is better to find out from the comfort of your home or a hotel room, and make further arrangements from there.
If you are already at the airport: Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, told CNN Travel to get to the airline agents’ counter as quickly as possible, and prepare to multitask while in line.
So, call the airline while you wait. Depending on where you are in line, it may be quicker to go to a call center. “Whichever comes first, great,” she says.
Attitude and research are important: Whether you’re dealing with an agent in person or over the phone, how you approach the situation can make a big difference. That starts with attitude.
Caught at night: “Ask the airline to put you up in a hotel or give you a hotel voucher. They may or may not. The law doesn’t require it,” Keyes says. However, they are less likely to do so if the cancellation or delay is related to bad weather than if the problem is mechanical to the aircraft or personnel.
Reimbursement rights for your flight: In the case of the United States, the Department of Transportation (DOT, for its acronym in English) says that the passenger is entitled to a refund of the cost of his plane ticket if there is a cancellation or a “significant delay” and he decides not to travel.
This is the policy regardless of the reason the airline canceled or delayed the flight. However, what is a “significant delay” is left open to interpretation.
Where is snow expected in the next few days in the US?
On the map below, we show you the snow accumulation forecasts for the next few days, according to the National Meteorological Service. You can follow the latest forecasts here.
CNN’s Forrest Brown, Gregory Wallace, Jordan Valinsky, Chris Liakos and Sonnet Swire contributed to this report.