I’m writing to you today from Santiago, Chile. I was supposed to be home today but when I arrived at the airport gate last night for my scheduled flight home I heard the dreaded announcement, “Your flight has been delayed as we are working on a mechanical issue”. This, of course, is just the preamble to get you ready for the next announcement which is “We are sorry to announce that your flight has been canceled for mechanical reasons. Please visit our counter to reschedule your flight”. And added onto these announcements is always the tag line, “Your safety is always our top priority at XYZ airlines”. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful the airlines make safety the highest priority. I just know when I hear those words over the loudspeaker when waiting for my international flight I am probably about ready to add an unexpected day to my itinerary.
Here is my top 10 list of things you can do when your international flight is canceled.
1. Have your travel agent phone number in your contact list – Let one easy call help you find all your options.
2. Add +1 to your phone number – Remember when trying to call an 800 number in the USA that you will need to add the prefix +1 before the number to get through.
3. Never stand in line at the airport to have them come up with options – The people at the airport are trained to process your bags and load the flight. They generally do not have the knowledge to know all the flight options and schedules. This is another reason you use a professional travel agent.
4. Don’t let the airlines bully you – If you call the airline directly to reschedule your flight, don’t let the airline bully you to think what they offer as an alternate flight is your only option. The airlines will almost always reschedule you on other flights that are easiest and best for them and their schedule. This may not always be your best option.
5. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar – Always be respectful when talking to the airline reps. You can be assertive without going over the line. Unfortunately, the frustration of a canceled flight often manifests in people yelling or shouting at airline reps. Please understand they are just as frustrated as you are as their job suddenly got very painful the second that flight cancellation announcement was made.
6. Check Google Flights to see your options of all airline flights – Use this information as a background when discussing with the airline alternative flights.
7. Using another airline to reschedule is an option – The airlines hate to put you on another airline as they lose your revenue. But if you are assertive enough rerouting on another airline can be done.
8. Travel with only carry on luggage – Your checked luggage is your biggest liability for flexible rescheduling. If your luggage is in the belly of the plane you lose most of your flexibility to find alternative flights. I always travel with just carryon luggage.
9. Your hotel, transfers, and meals should be taken care of by the airline – If your flight is canceled because of a mechanical problem that causes an overnight stay the airline will provide you a voucher for free hotel accommodations plus a food voucher and transportation to and from the hotel. If your flight is canceled for weather-related issues, unfortunately, you will not get any freebies.
10. Go with the flow – If you realize that canceled and delayed flights are just part of the traveling process and most of the time going with the flow is a lot less stressful than worrying about things that you have little or no control over. Take a deep breath and realize that a canceled flight is frustrating. It probably is not the end of the world.