If your flight is cancelled, or delayed for more than 4 hours, here is what you can do:
We’ve all been there. We’re packed up and ready to go on a vacation, business trip, or to handle a family matter, and then we get a dreadful notification: “Flight Delayed” or “Flight Cancelled.” It’s the most frustrating message to get, especially when you don’t know why.
You look outside – the skies are clear. You check the upcoming weather – nothing out of the norm. You tune into the news – no terrorist threats. So what’s going? Well, it could be a number of things. And each airline has terms (you agree to when you purchase your ticket) that address the liability of the airline in certain situations. In most cases, the airline can’t be held responsible, which is…frustrating, I know. But sometimes, you may just be on the right side of customer service.
One time, I got an alert on my phone at 5 a.m. that my 8 a.m. flight from New York to Atlanta was delayed for more than four hours. If I was in a rush, I would’ve called the airline immediately. But I wasn’t so I welcomed the extra time to get to the airport. When I got there, the agents wouldn’t even give me a meal voucher when I asked.
So I tweeted the airline about the problem and got a response within 30 minutes that led to a $200 flight voucher toward future travel – money in the bank for someone who frequently travels. I’m willing to bet I was the only person on the flight that got some sort of compensation for the delay. Not because I’m special, but because I asked and didn’t give up when met with an initial, “no.”
Another time on a different airline, I missed a connection due to an airline-related delay and I had no choice but to be rebooked on a flight the following day, which meant I needed a hotel for the night. Why should I have to come out of pocket for that? So I inquired. And again, although I was initially met with some pushback, I received a free hotel for the night with airport shuttle. I was going to be losing out on the non-refundable hotel reservation I had for where I was going, after all.
It’s things like this that many people don’t think they can get. Don’t get me wrong. More often than not, your requests will not be satisfied. Airlines are in the business of making money. But they are also in the business of retaining customers, and surely have a customer retention budget of some sort for oopsies like these.
So what should you do if your flight has a major delay or gets cancelled? Read these tips and you just might be compensated for your inconvenience, too.
Applicable to major delays, which are generally considered to be 4 hours or more.
- Acceptance. Ah yes, retreating from your plans and accepting that an unpleasant thing has happened can be blood boiling. I know firsthand. But adopting a good mental attitude in the beginning can save you loads of time in your pursuit to remedy the problem. Have you ever witnessed those people who become rude, impatient or demeaning to service people? They get nowhere. Don’t be those people.
- What’s The Hold-Up? Immediately contact the airline to find out the cause of the delay or cancellation. Most likely, they will not voluntarily inform you, especially if it’s something within the airline’s control. You can call, message, or speak in person (if you’re at the airport) to ask, “what is the cause the of the delay for Flight X?” They have to tell you.
- NOT AT FAULT: If the reason is weather or security related, stop here. These delays are usually beyond the airline’s control and are a risk you assume when you buy your ticket. You’ll be rebooked according to the airline’s policy.
- AT FAULT: If the reason is due to late crew or aircraft maintenance, for example, which are usually within the airline’s control, go the next step.
- Get Rebooked. Get rebooked immediately on the next available flight that is convenient for you. Find the dates and/or times that work best for you. Some airlines will let you make a schedule change that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to make when they are at fault. Of course, the flight you are rebooked on still has to be in the same fare class as your original flight.
- Request Vouchers/Credit/Money Back. Now that you’re rebooked, you can focus on what the airline is willing to do to compensate you. It never hurts to ask, and sometimes you’re entitled. Compensation can come in the form of refunds, meal vouchers, flight credit, hotel accommodation, miles, and/or upgrades. Be reasonable about your asks, but ask.
- Necessities. If you have a long delay and are at the airport for long hours, or you’re stuck overnight, ask for an amenity kit. Kits typically include things like toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, pen, socks, lip balm, etc. Quite often, these items are left in our checked luggage.
SOCIAL MEDIA is becoming one of the fastest ways to communicate with airlines.
Utilize social tools like Twitter and Facebook for (usually) faster communication
Check out these tweets between me and @Delta when my flight was delayed. I got a response and a compensation offer within an hour. That’s good customer service.
Remember to be kind and respectful to airline personnel. It’s not their fault.
Rather than think of them as the problem, which they aren’t – the company is – think of them as the gateway to a solution. And no one is going to help you if you come kicking down their gate. Be firm. But be kind.