How To Handle A Canceled Flight

I‘m getting ready for a few months that include quite a bit of travel.

While I don’t usually run into problems when I fly, my husband has had a couple of experiences with canceled flights.

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Twice he’s experienced flight cancellations in the midwest due to tornadoes. And, of course, if you travel during the winter you might run afoul of extreme weather.

If your flight is canceled, how you handle it matters. While it’s never pleasant to be stranded, the reality is that you can make the situation better or worse, based on your actions. Here are some things to keep in mind:


Remain Calm and Polite

It doesn’t help anyone when you get bent out of shape and become rude. No one is happy in the situation of a canceled flight. The airline personnel aren’t happy, and your fellow passengers aren’t happy. Try to remain calm and polite. Wait patiently in line, and find out what your options are.

In most cases, airlines will book you on another flight without charging change fees or charging you for applicable upgrades. Additionally, you are usually booked on other flights if your cancellation disrupts the rest of your trip. Remind yourself that the airline workers are doing their best, and that you will eventually get to where you are going.

Consider Pointing Out Your Value

You can politely point out that you are a good customer. Of course, this has to be the case. If you only fly with an airline occasionally, making a trip or two a year, you aren’t going to impress anyone. However, if you are a frequent traveler, and you point out that you’ve flown on the company’s airlines 40 times in the last year, you might get a little more help.

Customers that are elite members of an awards program also get preferred treatment. That’s just the way it is. If you are a frequent traveler, or if you pay extra money for First/Business class, or if you belong to some elite club, you are going to get better treatment, and the airline will work harder to accommodate you. It might not be fair, but it’s the way of the world and of business.

You don’t have to pay a lot for this preferred treatment, though. In some cases, you can get an upgrade to elite status for $50 to $75. You get access to the airline’s lounge and you are more likely to get access to airline employees who can help you.

Be Prepared with Funds and Trip Insurance

For major trips, I buy trip insurance with my ticket. This is more about getting a refund if certain events prevent me from going on the trip after all. However, it can be one way to get a little more leverage with the airline, and ensure you get back what’s yours if a canceled flight ruins your vacation.

You should also be prepared with plenty of funds. Make sure you have a credit card with plenty of room so that you can pay for an unexpected night in a hotel, or buy food. My husband was offered hotel and food vouchers the last time he had a canceled flight, but fewer airlines are offering these days. Even if you try to get a refund later, you need to be prepared to take care of yourself right now. Ask for vouchers, but make sure you are ready, just in case the answer is no.

Have you ever had to deal with a flight cancellation?

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Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger. She writes for a number of personal finance blogs, including Planting Money Seeds. She has a M.A. in journalism, and is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger. Miranda lives Utah, where she enjoys spending her free time reading, traveling and playing with her son and husband.

Last Edited: 1st April 2014


    Share Your Thoughts:

  1. says

    I never had a cancellation that I was not immediately re-booked.

    When I use to fly for work, I used to try and get bumped, but it never happened. I was hoping for a free ticket, for my personal use. And a day of from work, as I could not get home! Double bonus.

  2. says

    It can be really hard to keep your cool when things like cancelled flights come up. Ultimately you need to keep a sense of flexibility when you travel, otherwise you will risk having an even worse experience. Keeping it together can turn something unfortunate into something manageable. Thanks for the ideas to help navigate the situation.

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