Do the words “flight cancellation” instantly make you shudder? If you’re a frequent flyer, chances are you’ve had to deal with the feeling of helplessness that comes when flight trouble strikes. On average, 100,000 flights are cancelled every year – or between 1 percent and 2 percent of all flights. Flight cancellations often leave passengers wondering the same thing: Now what?

First and foremost, take a deep breath. Keeping your cool is key to preventing what could be a minor hiccup from turning into a major hassle. Remaining calm also makes it easier for airline personnel to help you navigate your way through the flight cancellation. Smile, practice patience, and consider these master techniques that can keep this interruption from becoming a huge headache.

Find Out the Reason for the Cancellation

The reason behind the flight cancellation is important for figuring out your plan to cope with it. There are two main categories that force flight cancellations: “force majeure” — events outside of the airline's control — and internal problems. The reason behind the cancellation is a big factor in just how much the airline can and will do to help you deal with it.

Close up of digital airport sign reading 'Flight Cancelled
Source: Adobe Stock

Know Your Rights

No matter the reason for the cancellation, airlines have a nearly universal policy of rebooking passengers on the next available flight. You can also ask for a full refund in the event of a flight cancellation. If your flight was cancelled for a reason within the airline's control, then you might be eligible for extra benefits like meal vouchers and hotel accommodations. Every airline has its own policies, so it helps to know before you go, especially if you're on an international trip.

Be Proactive

Ideally, you'll be notified of the cancellation via email or text before you even get to the airport. But if you've already arrived, then get in line as instructed, and get on the phone with the airline. The airline's customer service specialists can often help you faster over the phone than in the waiting line. Plus, they might have more information than the crew on the ground and can help you arrange for any alterations to your connecting flights.

Don't Be Afraid to Negotiate

Before you sign anything or accept any compensation, make sure you know what you are entitled to. Don't like the flight they're offering? Ask for a different one. Most airlines want to keep their passengers as happy as possible, so don't be afraid to explore all options before accepting their first offer.

People waiting in line to talk to a customer service agent at an airport during daytime
Source: Adobe Stock

Take Charge of Your Plans

The airline will try to meet your needs, but if you've tried negotiating for a better flight or other benefits and you aren't getting anywhere, then consider asking for a full refund, and take charge by rebooking on your own. Travel apps can help you research other available flights quickly from your smartphone while you're waiting for information.

Call it a Night

If it's already late, or if you're facing weather-related flight cancellations, then book a room ASAP at a nearby hotel. Don't forget, there are plenty of other passengers in the same predicament, and hotels will most likely fill up quickly. Book fast so you can wait for the next available flight in comfort.

People waiting in line to talk to a customer service agent at an airport during daytime
Source: Adobe Stock

Call Your Credit Card Company

The card you used to book your trip may offer built-in protection for trip delays. As soon as your flight is cancelled, file a claim with the airline, and check with your credit card company. Some cards offer additional compensation if the flight cancellation meets certain criteria.

Keep Your Boarding Pass

Make sure you hold on to everything related to the cancelled flight. Many airlines won't acknowledge even legitimate claims if you don't have all your documentation.

A flight cancellation doesn't have to be a disaster. Use the extra time to get out and explore, rest, and recharge, or enjoy a little more time with your traveling companions. How do you cope with unexpected travel delays? Share your tips with us on Facebook.


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