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What to Do If Your Flight Is Cancelled or Delayed

Published by FareCompare on December 20, 2022

what to do if your flight is delayed

Christmas is just around the corner, and millions of people across both the United States and the rest of the world will be taking to the skies. With an extremely high volume of air traffic and threats of severe winter weather on the horizon, problems often arise. That also means that if you're one of those people, your flight may be delayed or even cancelled.

We always like to say that the best defense is a good offense. If your flight is cancelled or delayed during the holiday season, don't worry. We put together this brief guide with some key insider tips to help keep you sane and get you to your final destination safe and sound.

Track & Monitor Flights Online

OK, so you don't have a crystal ball that lets you know with certainty which flights will be delayed or cancelled, there are tools that you can use effectively. Consider using a website like FlightAware to gain an edge and keep an extra eye on your upcoming flight. For example, select the "see where my plane is now" option to determine if it's even inbound; this can help you estimate a modified timeline if there are delays.

Another tip? Look for a flight that shows as "zeroed out" – this means it's stopped selling tickets – as that might indicate a cancellation. This is less reliable as a one-stop guarantee, but it's another thing to keep in mind when monitoring. If the flight is going to be cancelled, you can move forward with changing to a new flight on the same day, or another date that suits you.

Remember that in general, if you're one of the first travelers to rebook a flight, you'll have a wider range of options. As customer service volume increases, alternatives grow more scarce and your possible solutions start to dwindle.

Request Reimbursement

This is when being well-versed in your travel credit card protections comes in handy. If you take the time to read the fine print, you'll learn that you might be eligible for accommodation, credits, or other expense reimbursement – either from the airline or through your credit card company.

Several travel credit cards include trip delay insurance, which will save you money if you get stranded far from home. While this won't get you off the hook from cancellations or delays, it will help cover expenses you incur while waiting for your flight to take off. If you use trip delay protection, you'll get reimbursed for any expenses during your delay, which includes meals or day passes for airline lounges.

Of course, the exact details will vary by airline, but having a leg up on what's covered and what isn't will help you stay calm when the going gets rough.

Show Up Early & Try for Standby

Time is of the essence! If you learn in advance that your flight is going to be delayed or cancelled, arriving to the airport early could secure you a same-day standby flight. Sometimes you can obtain a free same-day standby that gets you on another flight, perhaps connecting through a different city, but getting you to the same final destination at the same time or even earlier.

However, keep in mind that standby isn't a guarantee way to get on a flight. If the other flight is almost full, your chances of getting a coveted seat are more limited. If you have elite status with an airline, though, you'll have priority over other flyers who don't have status. Additionally, elite members can often access same-day standby benefits without an extra fee.

Know Your Rights!

At the end of the day, flight delays and cancellations around the winter holiday season are an inevitability. So many factors contribute to these disruptions that they're beyond our full control. However, there are things you can do to reduce the stressful impact it has on your travel experience and move ahead to get where you need to be.

Remember that staying informed and understanding your rights will be your best tool when recurring to an airline for assistance. You'll be able to ask for a range of solutions, such as receiving a flight credit, adding miles to your loyalty account as compensation, getting accommodations, or being reimbursed for what you spend while stuck at the airport.

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