Travel Tips

Flight Canceled? Here’s What to Do

Screen at the airport indicating cancelled flights

Whether you’re heading out on vacation, trying to get to a destination for a work trip, or you’re exhausted and just ready to get home to your family, there’s nothing worse than looking up at the arrival and departure screen in the airport only to see your flight’s been canceled. Thankfully, after taking a moment to slump your shoulders and sigh in frustration, there are things you can do to make the most of the situation.

No, you’re probably not going to get to your destination when you thought you would. But, by being proactive and taking a few extra steps, you can either rebook or get a refund for your troubles.

So, what should you do first when you experience flight cancelations?

What to Do If Your Flight Is Canceled

A woman watches an airplane in an airport

No matter when your flight gets canceled, it can be frustrating to hear. But, it’s even worse when you’ve packed up all of your things, rushed to the airport, and made your way through security only to find out you won’t be going anywhere.

Before you leave for the airport, always check your flight status. It’s better to find out its canceled from the comfort of home or a hotel, and you’ll have an easier time making the necessary calls or getting online to figure things out.

If you’re already at the airport when your flight gets canceled, immediately contact the airline.

One of the benefits to being in the airport is that you can get in the customer service line of your airline right away. Try to be patient, as agents are likely trying to work things out with multiple passengers. Once you are able to speak with one, you’ll have a few options.

You might be able to get rebooked on another flight with a different airline. If you have somewhere to be and you’re on a tight schedule, this is your best bet as another flight could be leaving soon.

If that’s not possible, the agent will try to rebook you on a different flight through their airline. They might also offer travel vouchers or other “perks” to make up for the inconvenience.

How to Rebook a Canceled Flight

Airline agent taking ticket from a passenger

If you decide to rebook right at the airport, talking to an agent is the easiest and fastest way to get things done. The agent will know the situation(s) causing delays and cancelations, and you’ll have an easier time working with someone face-to-face without having to jump through red tape regarding rebooking fees. They’ll also have instant access to upcoming flight schedules and can even put you on a different airline if necessary.

When there isn’t an agent available, or you want to take care of things yourself, consider downloading the app for the airline you’re using. Most major airlines have their own apps designed to streamline the process of booking, canceling, and rebooking flights. There’s often a rebooking fee if you unilaterally decide to change your flight within 24 hours of takeoff.

But if a flight gets canceled and it’s out of your control, that fee doesn’t apply. If you’re having trouble rebooking from your airline’s app, call the customer service number so you can speak directly with a person.

Some people take to social media to vent their frustrations or simply to call out specific airlines and ask for help. Occasionally, that might get the attention of the airline, and it might help you cool off a bit, but you’re better off trying to get help from the airline agents or customer service than venting right away.

Can You Refund a Canceled Flight?

A woman on her phone in the airport

If an airline cancels a flight, regardless of the reason, you’re entitled to a full refund if you choose not to rebook. If you’re the one who canceled, that same law doesn’t apply. Most airlines have their own refund policies in place, so if you have to cancel for any reason, make sure you do so within the appropriate time window and be willing to work with an airline agent to come up with a fair solution.

When an airline cancels a flight, you might get more than just a full refund. Things like travel vouchers, gift certificates, or even a complimentary stay in a nearby hotel aren’t out of the question. An airline can’t always control flight delays and cancelations, but they understand how frustrating they can be. Their job is to take care of their customers so that they keep returning whenever they have to fly. Giving out refunds when applicable and vouchers or gift certificates when people have been inconvenienced is a great customer service tactic.

If you feel like you should be refunded or compensated somehow for a canceled flight, don’t be afraid to ask the airline. But, again, be patient and polite. As the old saying goes, you’re more likely to catch flies with honey!

Why Do Flights Get Delayed?

Woman sleeping/couple waiting at the airport for their flight

Perhaps the only thing as frustrating as flight cancelations is a delayed flight, especially when you’re trying to keep a tight schedule. Flights get delayed for a variety of reasons, including things like the following:

  • Inclement weather
  • Delayed departure or arrival of another flight
  • Cybersecurity threats
  • Suspicious baggage
  • Terrorist threats
  • Maintenance issues

Obviously, no one wants to be on a plane flying through a thunderstorm or blizzard. No one wants to take flight when there are security issues, and no one wants to be on an aircraft that isn’t safe. Most delays are completely warranted. But that doesn’t make them easy to deal with when you’re stuck in an airport for hours.

Not knowing what to do if your flight is canceled can feel overwhelming. But, it’s often a matter of connecting with the right people from your airline—in person, if possible. If not, don’t hesitate to utilize your airline’s app or website to make the necessary changes to your schedule, book another flight, or ask for a full refund so you can fly another day.

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