Demand is relatively high. After two years when people could not travel or did not feel safe because of Covid, summer travel is busy again. Unfortunately, the other issue is that Labor is in short supply. Both airlines and airports have been stumbling in hiring, so there haven’t been enough baggage handlers, wheelchair agents, ramp agents, and pilots.
To some extent, it is a problem of the airlines’ own creation. Early in the pandemic, the airlines encouraged many workers to leave through buyouts or early retirements when they were looking to trim costs. Eventually, it seems as though that has come back to bite them. This is shaping up just as miserable, cancelling hundreds of flights in a single day.
It is even worse when your flight gets cancelled, and you see your travel plans fall apart. While there is no secret tonic to get your flight back on track, there is plenty you can do to get things going. Here is how to deal with flight cancellations and make the best of a bad situation.
Tips on how to handle flight cancellations
1. Improve your odds of avoiding flight cancellations
If your flight is already booked, you can switch to the secure option without any penalty. Many US airlines allow free changes if you don’t purchase a basic economy fare.
Choosing flights with lots of re-routing options increases your chances of finding a relatively convenient alternative schedule.
Additionally, all airlines typically offer temporary fare discounts when they predict operational problems, such as a major storm forecast. Track your flight status and make changes if you are flexible before your flight is cancelled – you will have more options before other travelers’ book available seats.
2. Advocate for yourself
Travelers who are often stuck with delays tend to find a solution quickly for one simple reason: they search for options through multiple routes rather than waiting for a single solution.
Seek support instantly and from multiple channels. You can call the airline while simultaneously queuing for assistance at the airport and checking flight availability, then work with whichever rebooking option comes first.
If you are not at the airport and the call wait times are huge, dial a different number. For example, Spanish-speaking lines may have shorter wait times, so may call centers located in other English-speaking countries such as Australia or Singapore. Twitter support may also be available for some airlines and can drive up response times.
In all cases, spending a few minutes looking for alternative flights is worth the effort. Knowing what options are available is a great way to ask for what you want instead of hoping an agent will give you something you can work with. Instead of waiting for them to do the research on your behalf, politely suggest what you find.
3. Consider travel insurance
While travel insurance cannot protect you from flight cancellations, it can reimburse you for unexpected expenses in the event of problems.
Trip delay insurance can kick in after a few hours, covering reasonable expenses you incur during the delay, such as meals, overnight accommodations, or last-minute hotel transportation.
Trip Cancellation Insurance— Reimburses prepaid expenses from your original, intended vacation.
4. Handling of lost or delayed baggage
Make sure you have coverage for lost or delayed baggage. Even if you get to your destination, your bags might not. Baggage delay insurance can cover essential purchases like a change of clothes, toiletries, and more until your bag is delivered.
Lost luggage insurance reimburses you for the value of what you lose, assuming you can document what’s inside (pro tip: take pictures of the interior contents before you leave home). In both cases, cash limits apply, so buy for replacement accordingly and leave your valuables at home.
As you might expect, it is too late to buy insurance once delays are already announced, so you should buy early. Our guide to flight insurance will help you understand the different policy options so you can decide what type of coverage to buy in the future.
Flight cancellations have been challenging this year but being proactive can help you book flights that are less likely to be cancelled or ensure insurance coverage if you need to file a claim later. In addition, advocating for yourself can help you get to where you want to be faster, while travel insurance can help cover unexpected expenses along the way.