“Due to circumstances beyond our control, this flight has been cancelled.” Many travelers have heard this dreaded announcement ringing throughout the airport. Now, what to do about it? Instead of boarding your plane, you now have to figure out how to get a new flight that won’t keep you at the airport for long. Not to mention you’re now competing with everyone else who was on your flight to try and get a spot on the next available plane.
While a cancelled flight is always going to be an inconvenience (you booked that time for a reason, after all), there are ways to make it easier. Here are the best tips and tricks for handling it.
1. Get in line at the gate desk
Once there, dial the airline customer service number at the same time, FareCompare recommends. It gives you the best chance of getting in touch with someone quickly. Remember, everyone else on your plane is also trying to hop on the next flight out. Why not try and give yourself an advantage?
Use your time waiting in line or on hold and try to re-book your ticket online. Even if you can’t re-book, you can get an idea of available times for other outgoing flights and mention them when you do make contact with customer service. Take advantage of airport kiosks to print your new tickets if you’re able to book online.
3. Spread the word through social media
Use Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the airlines. Some airlines, such as Southwest, Delta, and JetBlue monitor Twitter for customer service problems and may reach out to you that way. “Tweet your airline with your flight confirmation number and the information about the flight you’d like to be on,” an ABC article suggests. “A few helpful Twitter handles: @deltaassit, @jetblue, @AmericanAir and @United.”
4. Know when airlines are obligated to get you on the next flight
You can find your rights by reading the Contract of Carriage section on your airline’s website, which should explain to you exactly what the airport will and won’t cover. It doesn’t hurt to print out that contract, so you have written proof of an airline’s policies should the need arrive, according to Jeanette Foster, a Frommer’s Travel contributor.
5. Check out refund.me
The German website processes passenger claims for airline compensation if you’re having a hard time receiving a refund or new ticket. The website says that if you are coming home from Europe and have a delay, you could potentially get reimbursed several hundred dollars or more. It won’t help you out of the immediate problem of finding another flight, but it could save you from having to pay for the additional flight.
6. Be as flexible as you can
If your flight to a specific airport is cancelled, ask if there’s a flight to a nearby airport instead, a USA Today report advises. Depending on how quickly you want to get out of there, you can also ask about more distant regional airports. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it will get you where you need to be.
7. Ask about lounge access
If you have a long wait at the airport, but not long enough where you can get out and explore, ask a customer service representative about using an airport lounge. “Have your frequent flyer number ready and mention that you’re big a fan of the airline. Try to do this with whoever just cancelled your flight, as the lounge gatekeeper is going to be less likely to hear your plea,” according to Alexandra Talty, a Forbes contributor. “It is worth the groveling as most lounges have free wi-fi, terrific food, full service bars, and showers.”
When you can, avoid checking bags — it will be one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to reschedule a flight. It makes it much easier for an airline to help you find a new flight when they don’t have to try and chase down your luggage. “In fact, they won’t chase down your bags, so better to pack into a carry on,” the ABC article says.