It’s every weary traveler’s nightmare scenario: the flight you’re supposed to be on is canceled. What you do next will determine whether your day is totally ruined or ultimately redeemed. Not every situation can be remedied, but knowing a few action steps can make all the difference in getting you to your destination.
Get on the phone.
The faster you get on the phone with the airline to rebook your flight, the better your chances are of making it to your final destination. It’ll do you little good to stand in the long line with everyone else who’s waiting to speak with the ticket agent at the gate. Tip: If you feel like talking to a gate agent, go to another gate of the same airline where a flight recently left. They’re all plugged into the same system, and can do just as much for you as your original gate’s agent.
Adjust your itinerary.
Be sure to have some alternatives in mind, because the agents don’t always know the destination region where you’re flying. For example, you may not be able to get into Chicago due to weather, but if Chicago is your final destination, you could reroute through Milwaukee or even Indianapolis and be within driving distance of the Windy City. Thinking through your options and presenting them to whomever you’re working with to rebook your flight will let the agent know you’re flexible.
Know why your flight was canceled.
If you have to rebook due to a mechanical failure or another issue with the airplane equipment, you may be entitled to an accommodations voucher. If it’s weather, you’re out of luck, but if it’s the airline’s fault, inquire (politely) about a meal or hotel voucher for the inconvenience. One other tip: If you have to spend the night at a hotel, sit at the front of the shuttle so that you can be first off and first to the check-in desk. (This is also a strong argument for the need for travel insurance.)
Amenities might be available.
If you’re stranded overnight and your toiletries are in your checked bag, you can ask for an amenity kit by going to the airline’s baggage service office, located near baggage claim, and asking for one. These normally include a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some other essentials to help you rest as comfortably as possible without your pajamas.
Stay calm and be respectful.
This is another way of saying don’t kill the messenger. The gate agent or the reservations person you speak with on the phone isn’t to blame for your delay or cancellation, so don’t vent on them. Maintaining composure and using your best manners are your best bets for getting through this situation that is challenging for everyone. Remember, agents are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty for people who are nice to them.