Expert Tip #4: What to do when your flight gets cancelled?

Just like getting delayed, flights get cancelled – whether it be due to weather, mechanical aircraft issues or unavailability of crew. In an earlier Expert Tip (#3), I gave tips on how to potentially get compensated for delayed flights. Those tips hold equally good for cancelled flights. In this post, I give detailed steps of what to do if your flight gets cancelled, irrespective of the reason or potential compensation. Here is what you need to do:

1. Call your airline

As soon as you hear that your flight has been cancelled, call your airline. In all likelihood they have booked you on a later flight. Call them to ensure that and to make sure that the flight they have you on works for you. You can have then book you on another flight, if the flight they chose is not conducive.

2. Check if there is a Waiver issued

You should also ask them or check online if there is a waiver in place. Waivers are issues for several reasons – weather, a strike at airport, unsafe conditions at airport/destination country, etc. A waiver may allow you to reschedule your entire trip with no penalty.

3. Check for alternate flights and routes

When the airline books you on an alternate flight, they tend to keep your routing. There may be other flights available that may have different routing (may be one-stop instead of non-stop) that may be more conducive for you. Make sure you ask them to check or check online yourself and have the airline use the better flights. I was recently on a flight from Austin to Washington, DC (AUS-IAD). When the flight got cancelled, United booked me on the next non-stop – 24 hours later! There war several one-stop flights that were much earlier than that. They did not even consider them till I asked. Also have them check for flights for near-bye airports that may work for you.

4. Check for alternate flights with Partner Airlines

While your flight may had been cancelled, partner airlines may still be flying. Or they may have a better alternate route than what your Airline booked you on. Check for such flights and ask your airline to put you on a partner flight. In my earlier example of the UAS-IAD flight, I found a US Airways flight thru Charlotte (CLT) that got me home sooner than any United option.

5. Check for delayed flights

Once you have secured your seat on the next flight that works for you, start looking for flights on your route that may be delayed but may work for you. These have to be searched separately as such flights will not show up on any website when searching for next available flights. If the flight was scheduled for 2:30PM and you search at 4PM, it will not show up as an ‘available’ flight even if it is delayed and still available for you to board. This is tricky to search. The best option is to go to the airport and check on the departure boards there. This is obviously not always possible. The next best option is to check on flight status websites like See if there is still a flight for your destination that has not left. Call your airline and have them put you on that flight, if it is their or a partner flight. If it is a flight operated by an airline not associated with yours see step 6.

6. Check other Airlines

If have to get where you need to, check with other airlines – those which are not partners with your airline. This will only work if you are willing to purchase a brand new ticket. Check both for scheduled and delayed flights. In my earlier scenario, there was a delayed Southwest flight flying Austin to Baltimore (AUS-BWI). It was a delayed flight from 3 hoards earlier. If I lived any closer to BWI, I would have considered buying a fresh ticket and getting home the same day.

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  1. I recently had been scheduled on an American Airlines flight which was cancelled. Rather than wait until the next day to fly with American, I found a Delta flight leaving about 2 hours later, routing via a different city to my final destination that same day. American booked the flight for me with Delta, at no out of pocket expense for me.

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