What to do if your flight gets delayed or cancelled

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Flight delays and cancellations across Europe and the USA
(Photo by Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño/ flickr.com)

It is this time of the year again when the high season for summer vacations begins! Filled with excitement we imagine the vast sandy beaches and the clean and fresh smell of the sea.

Not so fast.

Some unexpected hurdles on the way to our dream destination may prompt the question:

Is our trip going to fail right from the start?

Like many other things today, it all began during COVID. Remember those pictures of empty airplanes flying with a few passengers and deserted airports?

When COVID began, people stopped traveling. To offset the losses airlines had to let go of employees offering unpaid leave packages or early retirement. Pilots, cabin crew, and ground personnel were all on the chopping board.

As the number of passengers picked up this summer to pre-COVID levels the need for more flights increased. But airlines were not ready yet to meet the high demand.

They were left with just one choice. To start cancelling flights due to shortage of staff. And the worst nightmare for passengers unleashed.

Who would want to start their vacation with a cancelled flight? For the past few weeks airlines across the US and Europe indeed delayed or cancelled thousands of flights.

But there are a few things we can do if our flight gets delayed or cancelled.

Download your airline mobile app

While criticism of airline mobile app quality is not out of ordinary, travel experts analysis reveal passengers’ satisfaction with apps is growing.

Travel experts suggest not to leave our homes prior to our trip without downloading our airline’s app. Links to apps can be found on airlines websites.

The app will allow us to see rebooking or refund options, including timely updates on delays and cancellations as they happen.

Mobile apps are also helpful during boarding. We can check-in with an electronic boarding pass shown by the mobile app.

Be patient and kind

With travelers getting nervous ahead of the likely hectic travel, airlines are making efforts to keep their flights on schedule. Shorter turn over time on the ground, bringing in more ramp workers to handle luggage quickly, and starting boarding earlier are some of the measures.

Obviously, no one enjoys delays and flight cancellations. Frequent travelers advise to keep our frustrations in check. Be flexible and prepared, and most of all kind to airline employees. This can reduce the stress of experiencing flight disruptions. After all, travel is supposed to be adventurous and fun.

Speak to a gate agent

Travel experts advise us not to rely only on the departure and arrivals screens. In case of delays or cancellations we need to speak directly with a gate agent about our rebooking options.

And the sooner we do that the greater the chance to find an alternative flight to our destination.

The agents may rebook us on a different flight or even transfer our ticket to another airline. At the time of the transfer they will reserve us a seat on a flight of a different airline.

Transferred tickets

Transferring flight tickets from one airline to another is not common. It is limited in use and based on availability.

However, at times of high demand, delays, cancellations, or other unforeseen circumstances it is often used to help passengers reach their destination. But here is the catch.

In case of a ticket transfer we forfeit our obligations with the current airline and transfer them onto a new airline.

If the new airline for some reason cancels their flight we may end up in an even worst situation. Since we are transferred passengers from a different airline we have the least privileges when it comes to rebooking.

Therefore we need to make sure that our transferred flight is confirmed and not on stand-by or other status that would not guarantee departure.

Call the airline or reach customer service trough Social Media

And if you are in line to speak with an agent, call your airline rebooking number as you may be able to get through with them faster.

Reaching the airline via social media is also an option. See if your airline has a dedicated customer service account to send them a direct message.

According to their experience travel experts suggest Twitter as most airlines have dedicated customer service account on the social media platform.

Travel Insurance

If you are worried about holiday travel chaos make sure you have the right travel insurance. According to experts travel insurance is a good way to ensure you don’t have extra bills to pay if anything goes wrong before or during your holiday. Cover can start from as little as a few dollars.

Cancelled flights and delays are usually the responsibility of your airline but travel insurance can fill in the gap when they don’t pay out.

Airlines do not have to pay compensation if the disruption is not their fault. Your travel insurance will cover you for delays and cancellations in some scenarios where you would not qualify for compensation from an airline.

Read Delay and Cancellation Policies Ahead of Time

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you should know your rights before you head to the airport.

If delays are significant or due to extraordinary circumstances and are usually more than just a few hours you may be entitled to a refund. Airlines may try to give you a voucher but you can insist on getting your money back. Travel vouchers come with lots of restrictions.

According to frequent travelers, if you travel to, from or within the European Union, travelers delayed more than three hours can be compensated.

There are strict requirements on what constitutes a major delay. It’s usually more than just a couple of hours and for it you usually pay upfront and get reimbursed later.

Among many other tips frequent flyers advise taking the first flight out early in the morning, choosing direct flights or longer layovers, and avoiding checking bags.

In booking your flight, of course, there is so much more to it. Don’t miss out to check out my Tips and Tricks on how to save on airfare.

And if you really end up stuck at an airport because of flight cancellation, try to make the best of the situation. Look at it with a smile and part of the entire experience.

Follow Ian Powers:

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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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