How to Keep a Canceled Flight From Ruining Your Trip
It’s amazing how much time most of us put into booking our travel. When it’s for fun, we could spend weeks or even months looking for the perfect vacation spot, planning itineraries, and watching airline ticket prices to get the best deal. When it’s for work, we have to coordinate schedules, arrangements, and meetings to make sure the trip is productive – not disruptive – to our workflow…
…and all of that planning and coordination can go away in one fell swoop if the airline cancels the flight at the last minute.
Suddenly all of that careful planning turns into a scramble to find the next flight out, hotel accommodations if necessary, and coordination with people and vendors on the other side of the flight – just to try to retain some semblance of the original plans. It’s definitely not something any of us want to deal with, but having a strategy in mind for worst case scenarios like this one are the best way to escape the frustration with the plans unscathed.
Want to make sure you’re on the side of the equation that ends up with the trip you planned on – not some sliver of your original plans? Then read on to find out how to keep a canceled flight from ruining your trip!
If you’re already at the airport and your flight was canceled, it’s imperative that you act as quickly as possible to get on the next flight out. Unfortunately, you won’t be the only one scrambling to make new plans, so there is some competition for whatever seats are available.
There’s a bit of disagreement by travel experts on whether you should go to the gate attendant or call the customer service line first to get another flight. Since we’re a tech startup, we lean towards doing whatever you can online!
The first thing to do is go online to make sure you weren’t already automatically rebooked. If you were, then you can skip the rest of this section! If you weren’t, do a quick search to find out when the next flight is. If you’re good with multitasking, go ahead and call customer service while you’re performing this search. Chances are you’ll be able to find the next flight before you’re even taken off hold.
If you’re not sure of which flight you want to take/should take, or if you prefer to talk to an airline representative before you book, walk up to the line for the gate attendant (because in situations like this there will be a line) while calling customer service at the same time. Don’t hang up until or if you’re next in line – the idea is to talk to whomever becomes available first, customer service or gate attendant.
Tip: If you’re really good at multitasking, you could try tweeting at your airline while you wait to see if that garners a response even faster.
Once you have your next flight booked, you may need to think about a hotel. If you are in a situation that has you stuck overnight, book your hotel as quickly as you did your flight. Again, you won’t be the only person rushing to do this, so the quicker you book, the better. Not sure where to book in the area? Try HotelTonight to see what’s close by and has room.
*Keep in mind: if you opt not to fly with this airline due to the cancellation, they are required to give you a refund for the unused portion of your ticket.
Ask for the Accommodations You Deserve
At this point, remember what the airline does or doesn’t owe you.
If the cancellation was caused by extraordinary events out of the airline’s control (such as inclement weather), there is little that the airline actually owes you.
If the cancellation was preventable and you’re flying to or from Europe, then you may be eligible for compensation. While you wait for your next flight, you can submit a claim via AirHelp to get the ball rolling and receive your compensation faster.
In either situation, the airline is required to put you on the next available flight, but that doesn’t mean they’re required to search for flights from other airlines (though some will). Review your airline’s contract of carriage for their policy on this.
If the cancellation was preventable and the next flight doesn’t leave until the next day, the airline should give you a voucher for your hotel stay. Depending on how long you’re stuck waiting, they may also owe you a phone call, water, and a meal voucher. Again, you can see all of this on your airline’s contract of carriage. The airline may even give you an amenity kit that includes toiletries to help you out – all you have to do is ask.
Enjoy Your Downtime
After all of your booking needs are met, all that’s left to do is wait. While that may not sound like fun, it can be sort of awesome if you let it!
For one thing, when’s the last time you had some time to yourself? Use this opportunity to your advantage! You could enjoy some reading you haven’t had time for, catch up on work, or do whatever else you haven’t had time to do recently.
If you like the idea of alone time but would rather not have it at the gate, use apps like GateGuru and LoungeBuddy to find out what airport accommodations might be available to you. Even if you’re not a frequent flyer with access to lounges, some offer day passes for anyone. Check it out and pamper yourself while you wait!
Have a whole day or more before you fly out? If there’s nothing you can do about it, have fun with it. Go into the city and explore a little. Every city has something special to offer, even if it’s not the first place you’d choose to go on a vacation. Use Gogobot to search for your favorite things to do or Foodspotting for something great to eat.
The most important way to prevent a canceled flight from ruining your trip is to do whatever you can to salvage your plans, then let go of the rest. There’s not much you can do about it after that, so you might as well take a deep breath and enjoy a break from your routine. Before you know it, the cancellation will be a distant memory and you’ll be back to life as usual!