Cancelled flights are a real pain, but unfortunately they do happen. If you get stuck, here are some tips to help you get onto the next possible flight.
First tip: Don’t panic!
Shouting and arguing isn’t going to get you on a cancelled flight, best to deal with it in a controlled manner.
Being on the airlines side will give you more room to negotiate, after all its an airlines worse nightmare to cancel, it’s a last resort and they will do their best to get you onto the next possible flight if you can remain calm.
Look at what your options are first, many airlines will refund your ticket or change your flight for you. Some can do it at the check in desk whilst others (normally budget airlines) require you to make this change online.
Always go for the flight change option first. Your refund will not be enough for an emergency, last minute flights with another airline it will be costly.
If your flight has been moved a few days forward, check if your insurance will cover you. In most cases they will give you a small budget to pay for your food and hotel so you’re not sleeping at the airport overnight until the next flight comes, this is a great option if your policy covers this.
Airlines depending in which location you are stuck have many guidelines and laws they must follow in the event of a cancelled flight, they may supply food vouchers or a night stay depending on the situation, seek to find out what the deal is.
Sometimes minutes can be valuable, you must act quick. Once you discover your flight has been cancelled, directly go to the check-in desk and re-book your flight immediately.
Once your flight has cancelled, everyone goes into a state of panic, take a deep breath, remain calm and work quickly on this next step and you will be rewarded.
You will stumble across a handful of flight reps that have been put in place to handle large volumes to cope with large airline disaster and disruptions, they will be saying the same information to 300+ people and they are mostly in place to keep large groups controlled and calm.
You will be told by them to call the airlines call centre to change your flight with an agent. But guess what? Everyone is calling that number its going to be busy and you will be put in a waiting line on hold for a long time.
Head to a check in desk and talk directly to an agent
Once your flight is cancelled, this means you will have to wait for a replacement flight to be arranged or be moved onto another flight. In most cases when it comes to long haul flight, moving you to another schedule is the easiest option for the airline.
Go direct to your airlines check in desk and speak directly to an agent. If you’re quick to react then you could be in luck, if you are not, then the line can start to get long as changing a flight is a lengthy process. They have access to the same database as the call centre which gives them a greater chance of changing your flight to the next available one.
Backlogs start happening when flights get cancelled as empty seats on other routes start filling up. These flights are already full, the more routes that get cancelled, the longer your flight time and date can get pushed back.
It’s very important to fill those seats first before someone else takes them. Even if the next available flight is a week later book it immediately! If it has had that much of a an effect in a matter of minutes, imagine what it might be in a few more! Don’t think about it or gamble, just grab the next possible flight out.
It’s the airlines duty to transfer a cancelled flight free of charge, if you was to claim a refund and re-book it might be impossible to find an affordable flight home with panic bookings going on.
Not only is your airline filling seats for their cancelled flight, other airlines are calling their agents and getting transferred to your flight too, so be quick.
Once you have looked into the possibility of changing your flight and you’ve done what you can, seek out other alternatives to get home.
Think of an alternative
Is air travel the only way home, you might be able to get a boat or a train back instead? Even a car rental or car sharing might be a possibility. There are many alternatives so hunt around and think outside the box. You might be in the same situation as other people, maybe getting together and hiring a mini van might be cheaper.
Ask yourself, do you urgently need to go home?
Do you really have to get home quickly? You can look at this question in both ways. If you are already in your hometown flying out, you can always reschedule your holiday for another time. You don’t know how long the disruptions will be, of course it’s disappointing, but better than spending most of your holiday at an airport.
If you’re already at the destination trying to get home, this is a different matter. You need to get a rough idea of your commitments and work out if staying longer could cause any harm?. That’s exactly what I did, as a student, I have no commitments and with one email to my university lecturer I was able to explain the situation (which was already covered all over the media) and gained an extra week off. Being stuck in Tokyo of all places wasn’t such a bad option.
Find out what your insurance will do for you.
Once you have changed your flight you need to investigate what your Insurance can do for you. In most cases, they will be able to assist you providing you have the correct cover.
Call them up, gather their expert advice and seek what steps you can take next.
Talk to your insurance company will give you a better picture of what’s possible, they are always aware of Global disasters and are in some cases waiting for your call to assist with your enquires.
Find out if your hotels and food would be covered for the duration of your delayed flight and negotiate what the limits of spending are per a day. Be sure to gather receipts to build up your spenditure over the course of the delay in order to file your claim on your return.
Document everything in detail
If you are able to claim, you want to make sure you complete your insurance form perfection. If it’s not done correctly, they will send it back until it’s done properly. Insurance companies will be overwhelmed with claims (especially after a disaster) so make sure it’s done right or you could be waiting a long time.
What you will need to include in your Insurance claim:
• Cover letter explaining the situation ( Include insurance numbers, claim number and flight details) Also states what was explained to you by the call centre.
• Photocopy/print out of ticket information on all the flights with proof of flight purchase (bank statement)
• All receipts you wish to claim such as: Public transport, phone call bills, meals and accommodation.
• Individually stapled all receipts to a clear A4 piece of paper, and number each document going into the envelope.
• Create a spreadsheet document outlining what is on each numbered document to make it clear to the insurance company (especially if it’s in another language).
• Make sure you photocopy all paper documents as reference (in case it gets lost in the post).
Place all documents into an envelope and make sure you send it by the most secure method. This means you can track your letter and it will arrive on top of the other claims first thing in the morning as it has to be signed for.
I hope you found the above useful and I really hope you never have to use any of this information. These situations happen and it’s important to prepare yourself just in case and remember to always buy insurance, it really helps in such moments of need.