What Should You Do When Your Flight is Cancelled?

The wonderful world of air travel! Wake up in New York and eat lunch in Los Angeles – just an airplane flight away!

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Up…up… and away!

So simple and seamless… right?

Ya, right.

If you have experienced air travel, then you have most likely experienced airline travel disruption – i.e. delayed or cancelled flights.

Southwest Airlines was the star of the latest cancellation extravaganza leaving thousands of passengers delayed, stranded in the airport, or without a vacation altogether (like yours truly)!

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“Is it too late now to say sorry?” – Jusin Bieber… & Southwest Airlines

Sometimes it is the fault of the airline, sometimes it is due to the weather… And while you can never 100% predict an airline cancellation, you can be prepared by having  an action plan in place in order to achieve your travel even when cancellation strikes!

Before Cancellation:

Avoid High Cancellation Risk Flights –

Fly in the morning One third of delays and cancellations are caused by maintenance issues and these issues compound as the day goes on. Decrease your risk by traveling in the morning, preferably on the first flight out. In addition, if your morning flight does experience a cancellation, you will have the remainder of the day to be accommodated on another flight. Pick the last flight out and experience a cancellation? You will be spending the night at or near the airport :/

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First flight of the day!

Know your weather – I live in Tampa, FL, and I know that in the summer months there is always a high risk of afternoon/evening thunderstorms. Knowing this, I will attempt to schedule my flights to avoid the higher cancellation risk weather times. 

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Lightning = Flight Delays/Cancellations!

During Cancellation:

Do Your Homework –

Normally there is a period of time prior to cancellation (i.e. delay) that suggests something is amiss… That is the time to research other flight routings and options. That way if the flight is eventually cancelled, you will already have options in mind to suggest to an airline representative, rather than relying on them in an overwhelmed state.

Sign-up for Status Alerts (Email, Text, App Notifications) –

Information is power, so ensure that you stay informed. Most airlines have some sort of flight status notification system, so be sure to sign-up your email or phone number so you can receive important information related to your flight as soon as the airline offers it! Another great tool in your pocket can be the airline smartphone apps that will send notifications and alert you of any funny business. Gate changes, flight delays and ultimately flight cancellations – all at your smartphone fingertips! 

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My screen this past Friday… courtesy of the Southwest iPhone App!

After Cancellation:

PANIC!!!

Just kidding… don’t do that!

Talk to an Airline Representative –

Remember that “homework” that you did prior to the flight cancellation? Well now it is time to turn it in – to an airline representative! Since you have studied up on other flight options you will be able to provide them directly to the airline in order to save time and hassle in an otherwise stressful situation!

Airport Gate Agent – Get to an airline agent as soon as possible once the flight has been cancelled. They will be able to provide you instant assistance and get you rebooked on another flight. Be prepared though, since all other passengers on your flight will be looking to do the same thing!

Time is important here since all passengers will be competing for open seats on similar routes and 100 passengers may be vying for the same 10 seats! Rather than wait in line at your gate (wasting time), be advised that any airline representative can provide you with assistance – so move down the terminal 50 feet to a less bustling gate and speak with a gate agent without waiting in line!

Customer Service Line – If you cannot get to a gate agent right away, make a call to the airline 800 number to speak with a representative over the phone. Make the call while you wait to speak with a gate agent and the telephone representative may remedy the issue.

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Long time on hold with Southwest… but they did finally answer!

Social Media – Airlines have a heavy presence on social media (especially Twitter) and you can use that to your advantage when cancellation strikes! Tweet a message to your airline when you experience a cancellation and they will respond directly. Send the airline Twitter account a direct message with your confirmation number and they will be able to assist you directly.

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Tweet tweet! get to an airline representative by any means necessary!

What method should you employ?

Well, I would advise all three! Remember, time is of the essence and every moment you waste could mean less time at your destination, whether that is home or away!

Make a Hotel Reservation – 

If you are away from your home city and speaking with the airline agent did not result in a same day flight alternative, AND it is getting late in the day – it is time to make plans for the night. Staying overnight is never part of the travel plan, but may be a necessary evil. Rather than spending the night in the airport, get some decent sleep at a nearby hotel.

Most airports have multiple airport hotels within a mile or two that offer rates around $120 a night. Sometimes the airline will cover this cost (if the reason for cancellation was under the airline control – i.e. maintenance issues), and sometimes they won’t (if the reason for cancellation is out of the airlines control – i.e. weather related).

In the Days Following Cancellation:

Follow Up with the Airline –

Feel free to contact the airline in order to express your disappointment in their level of service. If you feel that the airline’s delay/cancellation warrants additional compensation – ask for it! Whether it be in the form of future travel vouchers or even frequent flyer miles, it never hurts to ask! The airlines want you to remain loyal patrons and will often times go above and beyond in order to ensure that you do!

Reference Your Credit Card Travel Coverage – 

Many credit cards offer travel delay and travel cancellation reimbursement, and your cancelled flight just might be covered! For instance, the Citi Prestige offers up to $5,000 in reimbursement for covered expenses when you use your card to pay (fully) for your airfare. Make sure to reference your credit card benefits guide for more details and always pay for airfare with a card that offers an increased level of travel protection!

Final Thought

Flight cancellations are a bummer – adding time, cost, and grief to your air travel experience. Unfortunately, if you fly enough you will experience flight cancellations, so better to be prepared when cancellation strikes! Have a plan set for before, during and after cancellation and make the best of a less than ideal situation.

Any other tips and tricks that you employ when flight cancellations strike?

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Ready for take-off!

Happy [Cancellation Free] Travels!

DW

 

 

 

 

 


3 thoughts on “What Should You Do When Your Flight is Cancelled?

  1. Thanks for the tips! I hit a point a few years ago where it seemed like every SW flight I took, w/o fail, was delayed or canceled. I haven’t flown them in a couple years, but it seems like they’ve been doing better? (before last week)

    Like

    1. I have been a heavy SW flyer for the past two years and have been very happy when it comes to on time performance for the most part. This week seemed out of character so hopefully the can get back on track and build back some goodwill with their customers. What airlines have you been having success with lately when it comes to on-time performance?

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

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