Flight cancelations can be caused by bad weather, air traffic delays, and mechanical issues. But what happens when travelers become stranded? What can airlines do for their customers? What can consumers do for themselves? TravelAwaits reached out to retired American Airlines flight attendant Kentrell Charles to see what you should do if an airline cancels your flight. The travel pro gave us these six questions to ask if your flight is canceled.
1. “Can I Be Booked On Another Carrier?”
Most airlines will rebook you on their next flight to your destination that has a seat available at no additional charge. However, when an entire plane of would-be passengers is trying to rebook, it can cause a significant delay and may be worth looking into other airlines. Charles recommends speaking with an agent about whether another airline has available seats.
If the agent does send you to another airline, Charles says you may have better luck calling the other carrier’s customer service line than physically standing in line at customer service with your fellow would-be passengers. The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Fly Rights confirms that “it is sometimes easier to make such arrangements by phone than at a ticket counter.” It also states that finding extra seats may be difficult during the holidays and other peak travel times.
2. “Who Wants To Rent A Car?”
If no space is available, Charles recommends asking your gate mates if they’re heading in the same direction and getting a group together to rent a car. This works especially well for short trips, such as from New York to Philadelphia. Don’t wait to speak up — Charles says the longer you wait in the airport, the less chance there is that anyone will take you up on this option. Of course, you can always rent a car on your own, but splitting a rental will save money, and you may even make a new friend or two.
3. “Have You Chartered A Bus?”
Charles attests that some airlines will charter Greyhound buses for closer destinations like Salt Lake City to Denver when flights are canceled because of bad weather. It can’t hurt to ask!
4. “Can You Roll Me Over To The Next Flight With A Confirmed Seat?”
“If your starting destination is your home airport, you can always ask for the next available seated flight,” says Charles. When airlines rebook you on the next flight, many times that means you are on standby and will be stuck until there’s an available seat, but if you live in the city you’re flying out of, or have a place you can stay, you can ask to be rolled over to the next flight that the airline can confirm you’ll have a seat on instead of playing the standby waiting game. “If the flights keep canceling, keep asking for this until you can get out,” advises Charles.
5. “Can I Get A Food Or Lodging Voucher?”
Food and/or lodging vouchers might assuage your inconvenience, but the airline is not legally required to provide them. As the DOT’s Fly Rights state, “Contrary to popular belief, for domestic itineraries airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.”
Charles says, “When you get to speak to an agent, that’s the time to ask for any food vouchers and lodging vouchers. “
Don’t hesitate — he says some air carriers have a four-hour window to give out vouchers. “Food vouchers are usually only good for that day at the airport.” Usually, vouchers for lodging will give you one hotel or a list to choose from. He says to take the food vouchers whether you’re going to use them or not — you can always pass them on to another passenger.
Some loyalty or credit card rewards programs may offer similar compensation for their members and even take care of making lodging arrangements for you, Charles tells us. Check with your credit card companies before traveling to see if you have trip insurance and trip cancelation benefits.
6. “Can I Access The Airline’s Lounge?”
Another advantage of being a loyalty or credit card rewards member is whiling away your wait in the lounge. American Express offers access to over 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries. Platinum Card Members can flash their same-day boarding pass and government-issued ID for food and drinks. Many times, you can also bring a guest or two. Delta Sky Club loyalty members can take advantage of snacks and drinks, Wi-Fi access, private restrooms, and more as they wait for their next flight.
However, if you aren’t a member, you can still ask the airline agent for access to the lounge while you wait for your rescheduled flight.
- Proof of purchase can come into play when filing travel insurance claims. Save all receipts from the moment you leave home until your trip is over. Save your boarding passes, too.
- Always carry a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and some baby wipes in your carry-on bag.
- Schedule an early flight, so that if it does get delayed or canceled, there will be more options to reroute throughout the day. Charles says that many times tourists want to enjoy the last full day of their vacation, so they book the last flight out. Keep in mind that means you could get stuck at the airport overnight if the flight gets canceled.
- Booking direct flights means you won’t have to change planes, thereby avoiding getting stranded between the first and second leg of your trip.