What to Do When Your Flight Is Cancelled or Delayed

Airport terminals can get a little overwhelming over the busy holiday season.  To make sure you are prepared for everything, and surprised by nothing, we’ve put together top tips to get you sailing through any flight delays with as little stress as possible this festive season.

Follow these steps to handle your, or your loved one’s flight delays like a pro:

Confirm Your Flight

Confirm your flight one or 2 days before departure either by contacting your agent or checking in online.  Double check your flight times as any changes could affect connecting flights you may have.  By confirming all the details early, you won’t be caught off guard at the airport and can make alternative arrangements or request changes ahead of time.

Arrive Early

Keep in mind that queues over the holiday season are usually a little longer than usual.  In order to avoid a last-minute panic, arrive early and check in your luggage as early as possible, rather than waiting to the very last minute.  Queues at customs can get crowded.  If you don’t know your way around a foreign airport, make sure to proceed to your check-in gate well ahead of time as it may end up being further than you think.

Know the rules

If a flight is delayed for reasons beyond the airline’s control, such as weather, strikes, air traffic control, or most mechanical issues, then the airline is not actually obligated to do anything more than get you to your destination on its next available flight.  Some airlines may pay for a meal during your delayed period.  Airlines (especially domestic) charging low fares, may not even be obligated to compensate passengers for delayed or cancelled flights.  Be sure to check the rules and considerations for refunds or additional services when purchasing your ticket.

Stay calm and courteous when seeking information and assistance no matter how frustrated you may be.  You are sure to get a lot further by having a gracious attitude towards gate agents.

Check for free changes ahead of time

When severe weather is about to strike, airlines often give you the option to change to another day in advance, free of charge. Check with the airline in severe conditions a day or 2 ahead of time, or on their website notices.

Spot a delay before everyone else

If the inbound plane for your flight is late, the airline often won’t notify you that your flight is delayed until after that plane arrives. Check and confirm the status of a plane that’s flying in and predict possible delays so that you can make alternative arrangements if necessary.

Re-book without an agent

When a flight is cancelled, most people’s instinct is to stand in line at a service counter or get on the phone. Some airlines however give you an option to re-book online.  Use your smartphone browser to see if you can re-book on your own for free. Just pull up your reservation and you’ll see the option to re-book.

Get free access to your airline’s website while in flight

Having a tight connection to your next flight and being helpless to do anything about it while in the air can be very frustrating.  On flights with Wi-Fi, some airlines give you free access to the airline’s own website.  This way you can use your smartphone to check the status of your connection, see options, and sometimes re-book before you land.

Consider Alternative Airports

The big airports aren’t always the only airports in town.  Consider renting a car, taking a taxi, or hiring a shuttle to get to a smaller airport with alternative flight options if you are unable to find suitable options from your current location.

Don’t accept the first option you’re given

When an airline tells you it will be three days before you can get home, don’t buy it.  If you don’t like what you’re given, be persistent, but polite, and keep checking for options. While airlines aren’t required to rebook you on other airlines, sometimes they can, especially if your flight is cancelled outright.

Most importantly stay calm and make the most of your adventure, whether it goes as planned or not.  Wishing you happy, problem-free holidays!