The travel news this week is all about thousands of canceled flights into and out of the US. Starting last weekend and into the beginning of the week, all eyes were on FlightAware’s live flight data. In particular, the Misery Map’s live visualization lived up to its name showing the ripple effect across the nation’s airports.
Canceling that many flights can mean days to more than a week before passengers are finally routed to their destinations. The following snapshot was taken on November 2nd and it’s clear that travel was still backed up.
According to the airlines, these are the reasons behind the flight cancellations:
Interesting to note that vaccine mandates were not included in the official airline statements.
As travel picks up, it’s helpful to review what you should do when the airline cancels your flight.
Ultimately, the carrier is not legally obligated to get you on the flight you originally booked. Their contract stipulates they will get you from the origin on your ticket to the destination on your ticket, even if it’s on a different day.
When your flight is canceled, you’ll end up with one of these options:
If your flight is canceled by the airline and you choose not to rebook, you are entitled to a refund. In some cases, you’ll receive a travel voucher or credit instead.
Here’s what to do when your flight is canceled and you want to rebook.
If your flight is canceled, the airline can put you on another flight with another carrier. Most airlines will rebook you on another flight without incurring change fees or having to pay the fare difference when the cancelation is their fault.
When an entire plane of travelers—or hundreds of planes—are trying to rebook at the same time, there can be significant delays and you may have better luck calling the other carrier’s customer service line than waiting in line with other passengers.
Note: Southwest doesn’t have an interline agreement with other airlines, which further complicates things if you’re flying on that airline.
This strategy works best when you are at your home airport or have a place to stay while you wait. When airlines rebook you on the next flight, many times that means you’re on standby.
When a lot of travelers are in the same pickle, you could be waiting a significant amount of time for an available seat. If you give up, you’ll lose your place in line on the waiting list.
If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you can ask to be rolled over to the next flight instead of playing the standby wait game for what could be days. Just make sure that the airline can confirm you’ll have a seat and get a printed ticket.
Free food and lodging may make you feel better but know that the airline is not legally required to provide them. When you get to speak to an agent, that’s the time to ask for them. Some air carriers have a short window in which to give out vouchers so it’s best to ask early.
Karma points: Even if you end up not using the vouchers, you can always pass them on to another unlucky passenger.
Some offer compensation for cancelations and delays as part of the benefits. Some loyalty and rewards programs give you access to the airport lounge with your same-day boarding pass and ID. There you can get free food, drinks, and WiFi plus private restrooms and cozy chairs.
Tip: Ask the airline agent for access to the lounge when you reschedule your flight.
If you purchased travel insurance, check the plan’s benefits and call the customer service number for support.
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Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.