Handle flight cancellations like a pro
Record airport crowds and the likelihood of inclement weather during the holidays make for a more-annoying-than-usual travel situation. But there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t get left behind. An ex-O’Hare agent (current airline employees are verboten from talking to the media) offers tips on how to deal with a canceled flight.
1. Stop cancellations before they start. If you book a nonstop flight, fly early in the day and don’t check bags, you’re less likely to encounter airport turbulence.
2. Take care of yourself. Many airlines automatically rebook you, eliminating the need to wait in line at the ticket counter, but when mass delays are in effect, it’s best to call reservations or find a self-service unit to be sure. Luggage will be rerouted with you.
3. Ask airline personnel to use other airlines to reroute you. Customer-service agents aren’t likely to offer this option unless you ask; while the switch is free to you, carriers have to pay the other airline full fare—regardless of what kind of cheapo ticket you finagled on the Internet. “If a blizzard hits Chicago, all airlines will be similarly affected, but if your flight disruption is mechanical, another carrier may be the answer,” the ex-agent says.
4. Stand by. “If you’ve been bounced to a later flight or even another day but have the time and energy, ask an agent to put you on the standby list for an earlier departure.” During operational shitstorms, many people miss their connections, which frees up seats. (Note: This may not be an option if you’ve checked luggage.)
5. Hit the ground running. “Ask airline personnel about trains and buses for shorter final legs, such as Denver to area ski resort towns or from an East Coast hub such as New York to nearby Boston,” the ex-agent suggests. The airline will generally swap the remainder of your ticket at no cost.