You’re rushing through the airport only to find out that you have a flight cancellation—here’s what to do next.

By Brittany Loggins
July 15, 2019

Last year, I scheduled a last-minute flight out of Atlanta into New York City. I would be arriving home late and getting up for an early shift—I had NO time to spare. Unfortunately, the airline I was flying had plenty of time. The entire airline lost power and every flight for the entire evening was delayed or canceled. My husband and I waited in line for three hours just to talk to the person behind the help desk, who only told us they were doing everything they could—not the sort of experience I’d planned for with my travel checklist.

After that experience, I decided I should probably research what to do if I ever found myself in a flight cancellation situation (or close to it) again. To that end, I spoke with travel expert Bobby Laurie for some airplane travel tips to find out what steps we should all be taking when flights get canceled.

Avoid the customer service counters

This was definitely a lesson that I learned through first-hand experience, but Laurie agrees. His advice? Tweet!

“Avoid the lines at the airport customer service counters and tweet the airline,” Laurie says. “All airlines have dedicated customer support representatives available via Twitter.”

According to Laurie, tweeting at the airline will result in a response asking for a direct message. When you send the message, make sure you include your flight number and a brief description of the incident occurring with your flight. This will typically result in them rebooking your flight—with no in-line wait time.

Swing for the travel insurance

Here you have it, folks: Your parents were right all along. Even if you’re the type of person who’s never purchased travel insurance before, it’s potentially more important now than ever. “Most airlines no longer have interline agreements,” Laurie says. “You cannot expect them to place you on another airline to get you to your destination.”

Essentially, a lot of the benefits that travelers have come to depend on over the years no longer hold up. Laurie says that in the case of a weather emergency, airlines are not required to provide customers with compensation or a hotel room.

Often times, travel insurance is a quick add-on when purchasing your flight. While it’s sometimes a bit more expensive if you’re booking directly on the airline’s website, it can be cheaper on discount sites such as Priceline, Orbitz, or Kayak. Spending an extra $20 or $30 may seem like an unnecessary splurge at the time, but you’ll be patting yourself on the back if you find yourself standing in an airport with a canceled flight. Even if you don’t opt for it every time, make sure to be generally aware of weather conditions and seasons in both your departure and arrival cities. Traveling up North in the winter? A little travel insurance may be worth it.

Read the terms and conditions

Reading the terms and conditions is one of those things that seems like a no-brainer—and also something no one ever does. That said, there are certain things you should at least look into before you board your flight. Specifically, focus on the “Contract of Carriage.”

“It details all of the compensation you are entitled to,” Laurie says. “Some airlines allow you to cancel free of charge if you’re delayed over an hour, and some offer you discounted hotel rooms even with a weather cancellation.”

Mostly, it’s important to know these exact rules so that you have the ability to stick up for yourself during a flight cancellation.

Don’t forget those bags!

Laurie’s final tip: Remember your checked bags—they likely have your best travel clothes inside, after all. “If you paid to check your bags and your flight is canceled, you may actually be due a refund,” Laurie says. “Especially if you end up not going anywhere.” (An involuntary staycation isn’t as glamorous as you’d hope, but at least you’ll have a little money back in your wallet.)

Just remember: You may have to be the one to request it. The airline likely won’t be rushing to offer you money back.

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