Flight cancellations add stress to any travel day, but especially for families or those not accustomed to flying. Cancellations fall into two categories, and the response one takes should vary accordingly. While the airline will rebook you on the next flight with available seats (even if you don’t go speak with a customer service representative), being proactive and making itinerary changes yourself might get you where you want to go faster.
If you know you’re flying through a storm or an airport that typically has delays, be proactive and book yourself on another flight taking advantage of the free 24-hour cancellation policy. At the very least, have other flight options in mind so when you do speak to an agent about rebooking you can ask for specific flights by number and time that take you around the path of a storm. Help the agent help you.
DON'T JUST STAND IN LINE
You can line up at the gate for help, but if it’s only your flight that’s been canceled you might walk to a nearby customer service desk. Going into a lounge if you have access is always a good idea as the agents inside tend to be more helpful and resourceful. Calling the airline or using social media to ask for help are also good options.
USE A TRAVEL AGENT
Consider booking your itinerary through a travel agency. Then, if any troubles occur you can call the agency for help. Call wait times are shorter and the agents are working for you.
TYPES OF CANCELLATIONS
Wherever you turn for help, having the right expectations is important. While it never hurts to ask, understand there are two types of cancellations that bring with them different liabilities on the part of the airline.
Cancellations resulting from weather are in a category of their own because the airline has fewer responsibilities. Categorized alongside weather are other things beyond the airline’s control: civil unrest, labor strikes, government directives, and fuel shortages. Since the airline is not responsible for the weather, their Contract of Carriage indicates they owe you less compensation. This means you’re not entitled to a free hotel stay, meal, or a ticket on another airline.
These cancellations stem from scenarios the airline should have been able to prevent, so you’re eligible—but not entitled—to limited assistance after a certain amount of time has elapsed. This might include a hotel stay, voucher of equal value, or ground transportation.
In both situations, you can choose not to travel or continue to travel and be given a refund for the remaining ticket value.