What to do when your flight is canceled

What to do when your flight is cancelled

Oh no, your flight has been cancelled! Now what? First, try to stay chilled out. Whatever you do keeping your head on your shoulders is the most important thing.

1. What to do if you think you’re flight will be cancelled

If you suspect that there may be an issue with your upcoming flight there are a few things you can do to prepare. For starters download “Flight Aware” and monitor your flight status. What I have found is that often the flight status is updated on the app before the people at the gate have that information. Knowing that it is cancelled before everyone else does can give you an edge. Sometimes it can save you a trip to the airport.

The second thing you can do to prepare for a possible cancelled flight is to sign up for flight text/email alerts from your airline on your specific flight. Using this as a second source of information on upcoming flight cancellations can help you keep tabs and immediately take action to reverse course.

2. What to do when your flight is cancelled when you’re NOT at the airport

If you are notified of cancellation before you get to the airport, first of all, thank your lucky stars because this is rare! Immediately call the airline to figure out your options, using the information below as a guide.

3. What to do when your flight is cancelled when you’re at the airport

For starters, get on the physical line to see the travel agents behind your airline’s desk and hurry up on that! Better yet, sit near their desk if you suspect this may happen. In this case, it’s first come first serve! If there is another flight you can take on the same day, it will be filled up fast. Get on that line.

Whoever you speak to make sure that you are super nice to them. If you go just a bit out of your way to make the exchange start off positively they will remember that and there is a reason why they say honey attracts more than vinegar. Keep a good attitude, I’ve never seen anyone get a better deal because they threw a fit.

If you failed to get to the front of the line, don’t give up. Instead, while you’re waiting in line CALL THE AIRLINE on your phone. You may get through to someone on the phone before you reach the desk which will enable you to adjust your plans even before you reach the front of the line. This is valuable in multiple ways for instance you don’t have to wait in that line anymore and you just essentially cut the line by using your phone.

Hot Tip: Don’t call the in-country airline office. Call one of their international offices. Chances are they will be be less busy and not grappling with the same airline issues as the country your in. So if your flight is delayed in the USA and your on American Airlines, call the American Airlines office in Mexico or something which will most likely have lower competition for getting in touch with someone.

A third option is to visit the airline’s website on your phone. Minimally you can identify alternate flights for yourself to take and make the process simpler when you speak to the agent. Of course, you know that you can be on hold and surf the web at the same time, so do it. See if the airline offers re-booking options on the web and if they do and you are satisfied with your options then rebook yourself.

A fourth option, depending on the airline, is to use one of those airline kiosks to re-work your flight, if available.

4. How to avoid cancelled flights

Ok, there’s no way always to avoid a cancelled flight but we do have a few strategies that are statistically proven to lower that possibility.

Tip 1 – Book directly with your airline. If you book through Expedia or someone else, then you have a third party that you need to deal with separately who adds a new layer of complexity to the process.

Tip 2 – It is more likely that a flight later in the day will be cancelled than one early in the day. This is because when there is trouble at the airports this results initially in delays which cause a backup in the airport and results in those earlier planes going out a bit later. So if you’re on an early morning flight in this case, then it’s more likely for your flight to be delayed than cancelled. However, if you are a late-in-the-day flight there may be such a back up of planes that someone just throws in the towel and cancels your flight outright.

Tip 3 – Fly direct. This isn’t rocket science here, it’s aviation! Statistically speaking you’re less likely to have issues if you are flying on one plane instead of transitioning to a connecting flight. The connecting flight has the same chances of being cancelled as your original flight, if your original flight is late then you could miss your connecting flight if it is still on time, etc.

Tip 4 – If you don’t check a bag, then you just gave yourself the ability to “move fast”. Airlines will not need to worry about locating your bags and reorganizing your trip on their end which means that you can easily slide onto another plane or even another carrier without much complexity.


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