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What To Do If Your Flight Is Delayed Or Canceled

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Flight delays and cancellations are sometimes part of the reality of travel, but the flight cancellations seen around the world over the past holiday season took things to the next level. From bad weather conditions, shortage of airline staff and crew to technical issues, there’s a number of reasons that cause flight delays and cancellations.

Whatever the case may be, what can travelers do to lessen the burden of a sudden flight delay or cancellation?

Ever since the pandemic began, one of the most searched questions by travelers is “what do I do if my flight is canceled?” In the post below, we cover the top things you need to do if you’re ever in that situation, and what your airline can offer you in the case of a long delay or sudden cancellation.

traveler sitting on the ground at the airport in front of her wheelie suitcase, head resting in lap

Stay On Top Of Flight Updates – Flight Delays And Cancellations

Part of preparing for your trip is preparing for delays. One thing travelers should do to reduce any potential inconveniences from flight delays or cancellations is to make sure you sign up for alerts for the latest flight status updates.

flight board at airport with canceled flights listed

Staying on top of your flight status is the best way to minimize the chances of being at the airport when you find out your flight’s been delayed or canceled. On top of getting updates directly from your airline, check out Flight Aware for the latest updates on aviation round-the-clock.

In the case that you are at the airport and your flight is canceled (or delayed for a lengthy period of time – three hours or more for example), there are a few things you can do to move the process along:

  • Head to the self check-in kiosk to punch in your flight information and rebook yourself on the next available flight. In many cases, the airline will automatically rebook you on the next flight if there are available seats, but you can double-check at the self check-in kiosk and print your boarding pass if it’s already available.
  • Call your airline’s contact center. Try both the local and international numbers – if you can get an agent, great! Even try the airline’s social media page to see if you can get help via DM or any of the latest updates posted on the social media page.
  • While on your phone calling for information, place yourself near the airline agent’s desk so that you’ll be the first to know of any status reports.
  • Get yourself on the airline’s stand by list: Most airlines allow passengers to put themselves on the stand by list free of charge to help guarantee a seat on the next available flight. It can’t hurt to inquire and keep your options open.
  • Know the airline’s policies: Arm yourself with knowledge and know the latest flight cancellation/change policies when you book your ticket.
exhausted traveler at the airport sleeping in his seat. suitcase by his side and coffee in hand
Flight delays are no fun, but try not to stress

Don’t Panic

As stressful as the situation is, panicking won’t make the plane suddenly available for take off. If you need to talk to an airline agent for assistance, whether in-person or over the phone, it always helps to be as courteous as possible.

While it’s always a good idea to be polite, don’t be afraid to ask for a voucher or refund. In the case of a major flight delay, lots of airlines will compensate for some food, transportation and an overnight hotel stay if the flight is delayed until the following day.

Placing a complaint in the right hands will get you the compensation you’d like for a more stress-free trip.

What Happens If Your Flight Is Canceled?

If your flight suddenly gets canceled or you choose to cancel your flight because of a delay, you’ll typically get another flight of the same route on the airline. You can rebook your flight to the same destination and cabin class for another date, and the ticket is usually valid within one calendar year. 

Some airlines will have the cancellation policy for your particular flight written on the same page of the travel updates, so check through the page to see your options. For instance, the American Airlines website has the information that travelers need on the travel alerts page here.

Be aware that some airline cancellation and change policies exclude the Basic Economy fare. But in the case of sudden flight cancellations, all fares are included. 

traveler with suitcase by the window in a hotel room
Ask for a hotel voucher if your flight is delayed six hours or more

Will The Airline Give Compensation For Canceled Flights?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website (DOT), “If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”

The DOT also advises travelers that if the refund is given in the form of a voucher for future travel, make sure you ask about the conditions that may apply (blackout dates, expiry date, limits on number of seats, etc). 

This is typically in cases when the airline is directly at fault for the cancellation and the situation isn’t beyond their control. DOT’s guidance also states that, “In the United States, airlines are not required to compensate passengers when flights are delayed or canceled. Compensation is required by U.S. law only when certain passengers are ‘bumped’ from a flight that is oversold.”

Of course, this is only the rule if you’re flying within and/or from the United States. Europe and Canada have different compensation policies in the case of flight delays and cancellations, and airlines must abide by the policies of the countries where they operate.

You can see the Canadian Transportation Agency’s guidance here and the EU’s air passenger rights guidance here.

What happens if your flight gets delayed or canceled?

Read More:

Travel Insurance That Covers Covid-19

12 Countries Vaccinated Travelers Can Enter Without Testing

Latest Entry Requirements For Top Destinations In Europe

This article originally appeared on Travel Off Path. For the latest breaking news that will affect your next trip, please visit: Traveloffpath.com

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


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