Flight Cancelled or Delayed? 7 Tips to Get on the Next Flight

Published by Rick Seaney on August 2, 2019

Plane in bad weather

You got yourself a deal to a dream destination, and then – disaster! The flight is cancelled or delayed. The first to do is be sure you know your rights as an air traveler, and you’ll find them listed in the Department of Transportation Guide to Passenger Rights. Then, try these strategies to get on the next flight.

Contact the airline

1. Get in line, get on the phone: If you’re at the airport, get in line to talk to an airline rep but at the same time, get on the phone, to increase your odds of talking to someone who can help. Don’t have your airline’s app on your phone? Download it now.

Use your miles

2. Join airline miles programs: 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 elite and never will be, join the miles program anyway; you might still benefit by getting moved ahead of non-members for the next available flight.

Use social media

3. Go on Twitter: Many airlines pay close attention to social media so tweet your predicament to the airline and ask for assistance. If you’re not on Twitter or Facebook, join now. In fact, follow all the airlines you travel on.

Do your own research

4. Help out overwhelmed airline reps: While you’re standing in line waiting to talk to the airline rep, use your phone or tablet to see which are the next available flights that might work for you, then present this info to the airline rep (might save both of you a lot of time). TIP: Don’t be afraid to look for available seats on competing airlines; sometimes airlines will book customers on rival carriers at no extra cost. If your airline won’t do that and you absolutely must get to your destination as quickly as possible, it might be worth paying extra to fly another airline, and fight the battle for reimbursement once you get home. What if nobody’s flying? Check out trains and buses, and if it’s not too far, rental cars.

Airport flexibility

5. Look at nearby airports: Be creative and flexible. For example, if you can’t get out of your airport, ask if the situation is better at then next closest airport. Example: If you’re having a problem at Washington Dulles see if it’s better at Washington Reagan, or Baltimore. Or if there’s a problem at Los Angeles International, see if you can fly into or out of Burbank or Long Beach.

Be nice

6. Keep your cool: Long delays and cancellations can test the patience of the most courteous passengers, but please keep your cool. Remember, 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. Be that traveler.

Use a carry-on bag

7. Pack light: A big reason to use a carry-on bag is it won’t get lost. Example: Your flight has been cancelled but the airline rep says there’s a seat on a plane that’s leaving right now and you’ll have to run to make it. Guess what? A big checked-bag won’t make that flight, but a carry-on is right there by your side. TIP: This is an excellent packing method for carry-ons.

Now have a good flight, and here’s hoping you’ll never have to use these tips!

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