What to do (online) if your flight is canceled
Flying has never been a completely stress-free experience, but lately it’s been worse than usual.
The weather has always caused delays and cancellations, but add to that staff shortages, as well as an increase in demand thanks to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, and it’s as if someone has opened a portal to travel to hell.
All that to say, expect some turbulence with your future travel plans. On that note: your next flight could be delayed or cancelled. In fact, it may have just happened, and that’s why you’re reading this. In this situation, it is difficult not to panic, imagining that your happy vacation is flying away. But it’s not a lost cause. Here’s what to do when your flight is cancelled.
ABCFS (Always Check Flight Status)
If your flight has already been canceled, this is the obligatory boring part where I tell you something you should have done: before your flight, knowing exactly when your flight is canceled is important for the next steps, so it’s a good idea to sign up for SMS alerts with your airline, and check out resources such as FlightAware and FlightView for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
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If your flight has been canceled it means that everyone who was on your flight, and probably other flights if it’s weather related, is also scrambling to book something new.
“You cannot be indecisive in the face of delays and cancellations”, writing Summer cover for The Points Guy. “If you are, expect your options to diminish; once you finally decide, you will be at the mercy of all the options the airline has to offer… which may not be not great.”
Even if you don’t think your current options are great, it’s best to lock something down lest you end up with no options.
The first thing you need to decide is whether you will work with the airline or third-party platform you originally booked with in order to get a new flight, or independently book a new flight and get a refund for the flight back. ‘origin. This is where multitasking comes in.
As soon as you learn that your flight is cancelled, it’s time to take action and gather information as soon as possible. This requires a multi-pronged approach to finding an available and responsive form of customer service, as you are likely to have to wait no matter what method you try. That’s why it’s best to take the “all of the above” approach.
Go to counter
If you’re in the unfortunate position of being at the airport when your flight is canceled, drag your ass to the counter. Remember that your options are increasingly limited and it is important to act quickly.
Call the airline
At the same time, call the airline or the booking platform. There will likely be a long line of customers at the counter and waiting, so be prepared to choose which one comes first. Hot tip from The dot guy: Try dialing an international number for service, as there may be less wait time.
While queuing at the counter and waiting with customer service, sign in. See if you can connect with customer service via chat. In the meantime, start researching your options with the original airline/booking platform as well as other flight options in case you find a better flight and can afford to buy while waiting for a refund .
Go to Twitter
As a direct communication channel, Twitter could work faster than a customer service hotline. But, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Publicly shaming the airlines might not get the best answer. What works is sending a polite and humanizing direct message. Airline Twitter accounts are run by real people and will probably want to help out if you don’t tweet them angrily.
You catch more flies with honey…
This applies to all methods that involve speaking with a real human person. Despite how maddening the situation is, try to put yourself in their shoes. Your canceled flight is completely out of their control and they are just trying to do their job. Be kind and patient when explaining your situation. The person you speak with will understand your situation and want to help you.
Know what you are entitled to
Let’s say you’ve decided to book another flight on your own. It may be urgent and the airline options do not work. Or maybe you’ve found a reasonably priced flight that doesn’t involve a terrible layover.
If this is the case and you choose to cancel your trip, the U.S. Department of Transportation said“You are entitled to a refund for unused transport – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any baggage fees you have paid and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
Due to the pandemic, airlines are feeling the pinch and unwilling to shell out refunds. You might even start to feel bad for them, but don’t, because they’ll try to manipulate you into accepting a voucher or points instead of a refund. Don’t fall into the trap. Like the dot guy reports, some airlines make it more difficult by removing references to this policy from their websites. But even if it is not explicitly mentioned, you are still entitled to it.
The best option is to call a representative. If they try to seduce you with something else, hold on or hang up and contact another representative.
If all else fails, consumer advocacy group US PIRG Education Fund recommend filing a complaint with the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. “They will do what they can to remedy the situation. They will investigate the complaint, get a response from the airline and enforce any rules that have been violated.”