My flight is canceled. My flight is delayed. My flight is overbooked.
Cancellations happen and this could occur anytime you are traveling by air. When booking flights, it is important to understand the type of ticket being purchased and the airline’s current policy. Are the tickets being purchased refundable and/or does the airline have flexible booking when it comes to cancellations and/or changes? You can find this information on the airline’s direct website either in a designated tab or up at the top of the page.
With summer at its peak, travel is in high demand and many are flying to their destination. Over the past couple of weeks, airlines have faced many obstacles due to various circumstances thereby causing many travelers to adjust their plans. From staff shortages to tropical disturbances, traveling by air can be challenging this summer. Having flown numerous times over the past couple of months, I want to provide some helpful travel tips for those of you flying in the future.
Are flights being canceled?
If you have purchased travel protection, check with your travel insurance professional to see what is covered in your plan. Also, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a consumer is entitled to a refund if the airline canceled a flight, regardless of the reason, and the consumer chooses not to travel. Having this knowledge will make you better equipped to handle a flight cancellation if one should arise during your travel.
Another key tip is to download the airline’s app on your phone prior to flying. Along with checking in and obtaining your boarding pass, you can sign up for alerts (via text and/or email) so you are notified if there are any changes in your flight status. Additionally, you can look on the airline’s website under the “flight status” tab to stay informed as well as check the monitor boards at the airport to see arrival/departure status.
If your flight is canceled, and you are at the airport, ask your airline if there are any other flights available for you to fly out that day. Make sure the airline still shows your returning flight in their system, if you booked a roundtrip and the initial leg is canceled. If there are no available flights, either see if there is another airport nearby which has alternative flights available or use this as an opportunity to explore the local area if you have to stay overnight. Most airports have hotels nearby, some with shuttle services. Save all of your receipts to submit to your travel insurance company for any possible reimbursement.
Help! My flight is delayed.
Flight delays occur often. To minimize your chance of delay, try to fly out first thing in the morning. I opt for the very first flight out as often as possible. From my experience, I have rarely had my morning flights delayed. As the day progresses and flights are departing/arriving from various locations, there is a greater risk of delay.
Also, when booking air, try to choose a non-stop flight. If you have no other options than to take a flight that has a layover (or multiple layovers), give yourself enough time in between flights. All too often, travelers with short layovers end up missing their connecting flight if their original one is delayed. Schedule a longer layover, grab some lunch/dinner at the connection and avoid the stress. Believe me, 45 minutes is too short of a layover. One time, I literally had to sprint in the Denver airport from one gate to another in order to avoid missing my connection. Thank goodness I was wearing tennis shoes as I put my track skills to work that day.
It is also important to note that if you can travel with a carry-on bag (versus checking a bag), this can prove to be extremely beneficial if you end up missing your flight. Booking economy and higher usually allows you to bring a personal item as well as a carry-on for no additional charge. If you do have to check a bag, ensure you save the bag claim ticket in case your bags end up arriving at a different time (or airport) than you.
I just learned that my flight is overbooked.
Hey, it happens with many suppliers, including airlines. If you have the flexibility, speak to the airline and see what the options are if you volunteer. Sometimes, the option will be to put you on the next available flight to the destination. Other times, they may schedule you for a completely different day.
Airlines will sometimes offer you a “perk” if you volunteer to take another flight. I have volunteered on numerous occasions and one time got bumped from economy to first-class for a flight from TPA-DFW. Another time I volunteered on an overbooked flight and was offered a $500 future travel voucher to give up my seat. Again, if you have flexibility in your schedule, it could be worth it to volunteer.
With the pent-up demand for travel, it is important to plan accordingly. If you have a specific event you need to be at, fly in a couple of days in advance to give yourself ample time in case of cancelation/delay. Most of all, stay calm and be kind. Although flight cancellations, delays, and overbooked flights can be frustrating, do not yell or place blame on the gate attendant, flight attendant, or your fellow travelers. Consider this an adventure and try to make the best of the situation.