Plane in stormy sky
Your rights Make contact Use miles Social media DIY research Be flexible Be nice Right bag

Flight Cancelled or Delayed?

You got a cheap flight to your dream destination, then – disaster! The flight is delayed or cancelled. First thing to do is know your rights which are spelled out for you in the Department of Transportation Guide to Passenger Rights. Then, try one or more of the following to get on the next flight: Make contact with the airline; use your miles; use social media; do a little online research; be flexible; be nice; and use the right bag.

Let’s go through these one by one:

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 your 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. If you’re not a member, join your airline’s miles program now; it’s free and it may move you ahead of a non-member in airline pecking order for who gets on the next available flight.

3. Go on Twitter: A lot of airlines pay close attention to social media; tweet your predicament to the airline and seek assistance. If you’re not on Twitter or Facebook join now, and follow your airline.

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 rival carriers at no extra cost. If not, and you absolutely must get to your destination as quickly as possible, it might be worth paying 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 that’s somewhat nearby. Example: If you’re having a problem at Washington Dulles see if it’s better at Washington Reagan. Or if there’s a problem at Los Angeles International see if you can get out at Burbank or Long Beach or Orange County. You may have a longer drive but it might be worth it.

6. Keep your cool: Long delays and cancellations can test the patience of the politest of passengers, but please, keep your cool. The airline rep didn’t cause your problem and it would be a mistake to 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 to always use a carry-on bag. When things go wrong, you don’t have to worry where your bag will wind up; the bag that travels by your side stays by your side.

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