My Flight is Delayed/Cancelled: How to Get Another Flight Fast

You’re home or at the airport when the word comes down – your flight is delayed or cancelled. That’s the topic of my latest column for ABCNews which I summarize below.

LISTEN: Rick Seaney’s tried it all and knows what works.

6 Tips to Get on the Next Flight

Yes, you’ve got some work to do to get to your destination, but these tips will make it a lot easier.

  1. Contact the airline immediately.

Get in line to talk to the nearest gate agent. If it’s an especially long line, consider buying a day-pass for the airline’s VIP club (the elite flyer’s lounge) which typically costs $40-$50 but there are often deals around holidays. These clubs have their own airline representatives who will probably be able to help you more quickly than any gate agent.

  1. Get on the phone.

Call the airline. While in line, call the airline; you may get someone on the phone before reaching the gate agent, and being first in line (or close to that) is important because there are fewer and fewer empty seats available on other flights. Also try Twitter, since many airlines monitor this feed closely and usually respond quickly; they don’t want complaints blowing up on social media for all to see.

Search online for back-up flights: If you can suggest alternative flights to an agent (in-person or on the phone), you’ll save time and maybe get a better flight than what the airline will offer. Don’t be afraid to check out what your airline’s competitors offer, either and if one of those works for you, ask your airline rep to get you on that flight.

  1. Look at flights from nearby airports

If you’re in a big city that has more than one airport (such as Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway), see if you can get out on a flight from the neighboring airport – but be certain you have time to get over the other airport.

  1. Fly anywhere.

You can’t get a flight to your destination. Okay, see if you can fly to a big hub – even if it’s far from your destination – because you may be able to get the flight you need from the hub. This strategy may seem a little weird but I’ve done it; not so long ago I needed to get to Dallas but all those flights had been delayed indefinitely so I flew to Las Vegas where I had no trouble hopping on a flight to DFW. Check with your gate agent to see if this is feasible; you might fly a lot further than you planned but you still might get home a lot sooner than the passengers on your original flight.

  1. Planes, trains and automobiles

If you are only traveling a short distance, consider a train or bus or even renting a car (if it’s safe to drive). Sure, it might be a hassle but what do you call hanging out at the airport for hours and hours?

  1. A carry-on bag is your friend

It’s not about saving on the checked-bag fee (though that is a plus); using a carry-on means your stuff goes with you. If you learn there’s a seat for you on a last-minute flight in another terminal and you must run to make it, your carry-on will make it, too. A checked-bag will not.

I hope you never have to make use of these tips. But it’s always good to have a back-up plan.

Read more in Rick’s latest column for ABC, and see all his columns here

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Updated: December 11, 2014