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Flight Cancelled or Delayed?

You got a cheap flight to your dream destination, then – disaster! The flight is delayed, or cancelled. Airlines have no control over weather but flights get delayed for mechanical problems, too. Why it happens matters because it can determine possible compensation. Learn about your rights in the Department of Transportation Guide to Passenger Rights.

Meanwhile, some practical steps to take to get on the next flight out.

What You Can Do

1. Get in line, get on the phone: If you’re at the airport, get in line to talk to an airline representative, and if it’s a long line, get on the phone to the airline, too. Increase the odds of talking to someone who can help. Don’t have your airline’s app on your phone? Download it now.

2. Miles members: Most airline miles programs include a special hotline number for elite members; if you’re one of them, now is the time to use it.

3. Go on Twitter: A lot of airlines pay close attention to social media; tweet your predicament to the airline and seek assistance. Not on Twitter or Facebook or don’t follow your airline? Do that now.

4. Do some quick, online research: Find the next flight out and tell the airline rep about it; it may save time. Also, look at flights on competing airlines; sometimes (though not always) airlines book customers on other carriers at no extra cost. If not, and you absolutely must get to your destination as quickly as possible, it might be worth paying the extra to fly another airline.

5. Look at other airports: Be creative and be flexible. For example, if you can’t get out of your airport, ask if the situation is better at another. Problem at Washington Dulles or Dallas-Ft. Worth? Try Washington Reagan or Dallas Love Field. Is the flight to Burbank is a no-go? See if you can get to Los Angeles International. If you’re don’t mind a long drive and your flight to Las Vegas has been delayed, consider flying to Long Beach (or Orange County or other airports) but only you can say if that long a drive is worth it.

6. Keep your cool: Long delays and cancellations can test the patience of the politest of passengers, but keep your cool. The airline rep didn’t cause the problem; don’t unload on the one person who can help you. We’ve heard story after story of harried gate agents who were especially helpful to travelers who were calm and pleasant.

7. Pack light: This is one of the reasons I always use a carry-on bag. When things go wrong, I don’t have to worry where my vacations clothes are going to wind up; they’ll be right by my side.

Now get out there and make the best of a bad situation. Safe travels.