In all my years of flying, cancelled flights have been an anomaly…but they do happen.
In fact, I’m sitting in the United Club lounge at the moment, waiting for a flight to take me to DC, where I should have been delivered yesterday. The problem? A huge-ass thunderstorm descended upon central Texas, snarling up departures and arrivals from Dallas to San Antonio. My husband and I were tracking our inbound flight online and watched with dismay as our plane made an actual U-turn and returned to Houston.
To its credit, United Airlines stepped up and booked us on the next day’s first direct flight to DC, as well as comped us a hotel room (which they absolutely did not have to do; one of the perks of flying a gazillion miles with them, I guess) for our unplanned overnighter in San Antonio.
But of course this whole scenario got me thinking:
When your flight gets cancelled, how can you respond like a travel-hacking NINJA??
What are the precise steps you should take to set yourself up well beforehand…and to deal with the aftermath if necessary?
Here are my best recommendations to cope with the Travel Cancellation Bogeyman:
1. Be proactive, Part One: sign up for your airline’s notifications
Make sure you enter your cell number in your airline personal profile and check the box that allows for notifications. The airline will text you with any schedule changes as they occur.
Another pro tip is to download your airline’s proprietary app. This will allow you to not only receive an as-it-happens heads-up on any flight cancellations, but it will also let you learn about gate changes and delays long before that info is posted to the airport monitors.
2. Be proactive, Part Deux: pay attention to the weather
Of course you’re checking the weather at your destination days in advance of departure (how else would you know what to pack??), but it also behooves you to keep an eye on storm tracking while you’re waiting for your plane. Weather can change quickly. If you see a storm cell headed for your airport, be extra vigilant in checking your airline’s status updates. The earlier you learn of any cancellations, the earlier you can be in the queue for a rebooking.
3. Stay in the airport lounge prior to your flight
If your credit card or frequent flier status gives you lounge privileges, that’s awesome! But even if you don’t already have an access pass, sometimes it pays to fork over the cash for lounge time.
In addition to the free snacks and drinks, reliable wi-fi, and unscary restroom facilities, the lounge staff are typically the cream of the airline’s service crop. I’ve witnessed ninja-like efforts from these folks during weather crises, as they reroute and rebook multiple patrons at a time…and they someone manage to do so while maintaining a cheery demeanor (which is unfortunately not always the case at the main ticket counter).
Another bonus? The service lines in the lounges are much shorter than in the main terminal when weather shenanigans are afoot!
4. Call the 800 number for your airline
If for some reason you can’t get into the lounge—or simply don’t want to—use your airline’s toll-free number if something unexpected crops up with your impending flight. Go ahead a queue up with the masses at the ticket counter, but stay on hold with your airline’s 800 number while you wait. Chances are, the online agent will assist you before you make it to the front of the airport queue, and you’ll save yourself some valuable time.
5. Be prepared for the extra-ordinary when it comes to travel
Always pack the essentials in your carry-on. Include appropriate outerwear, any meds you might take, glasses, contact solution, a clean pair of undies (I swear by ExOfficio’s!), and so forth. Should you find yourself stranded mid-route overnight without your suitcase, having your own hygiene kit and comfort items on hand means you’ll be okay. Maybe not super-comfy…but okay.
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Of course we all develop our own survival strategies for flying the sometimes less-than-friendly skies, but these are my top five suggestions for dealing with the vagaries of Mother Nature when it comes to air travel.
And how about you? What are some coping strategies you’ve employed when taken by surprise at the airport? Share them via the Contact form! Together, we can ALL become travel ninjas!
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