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Flight Cancellation Board

What to Do If Your Flight Is Canceled: A Guide for Travelers

Cancelled Flight Board

It seems like every time you turn on the news that you hear about one of the major airlines canceling thousands of flights due to staffing shortages, weather, or other unknown reasons. Even a significant flight delay can quickly turn into a canceled flight. If your airline flight is canceled, it can be a frustrating experience, especially if haven't even started your trip. You may not know what to do or where to turn. Don't worry, we're here to help!

In this article, we will provide you with a guide on how to handle your flight being canceled while stranded at the airport. We'll give you tips on where to go for rebooking domestic flights, how to find a new flight, avoid sleeping in the airport overnight, and more! You're probably reading this article while stressing about what to do, so let's get started!

Check the airline's mobile app first to make sure you haven't been rebooked on a later flight.

Airline Mobile App

You should always download and install the airline's mobile app on your smartphone before starting any trip. You'll be able to see your itinerary, boarding pass, flight status, and some airlines even have push flight notifications to tell you when a flight is delayed and boarding. Don't waste your time waiting in a long line just to find out your connecting flight was already rebooked.

Pro Tip: Take a screenshot of your boarding pass in case your phone loses connection to the internet or the airline's mobile app is slow to respond. This will allow you to pull up a picture of your boarding pass instead of relying on the app.

Don't get let your emotions run wild on the gate agent.

This should go without saying, but it's good to take a breath and not take it out on an airline employee. Even though they represent the airline, they're not the ones who personally canceled your flight. Their job is to help you get rebooked onto another flight. They've already talked with 20 other people on your flight with the same problem, so let them do what they need to do to get you on your way. Try to hold back the backhanded unhelpful comments as they won't help the situation and still get you nowhere.

If you feel the need to vent your frustrations, only after rebooking your flight with a live agent, send an email to the airline's customer service department to get everything off your chest.

Walk to your nearest gate agent or airline customer service desk.

People Walking In Airport

After you've confirmed you haven't been automatically rebooked on a later flight, make your way to the nearest gate agent or airline customer service area. It should be easy to spot as you'll see other people from your flight running over to a long customer service line.

Call the airline customer service center while waiting in line.

Don't waste your time in line by just standing there thinking about how the flight cancelation is ruining your trip. Use this time to your advantage and have a better chance of getting rebooked ahead of the other travelers in front of you in line by calling the airline's customer service center. This is where you may be on hold much longer than it will take to reach the gate agent, but it increases your odds of getting rebooked on another flight quicker.

Here are a few of the major US airlines' Customer Service phone numbers at the time of writing this article.

American Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-433-7300

Delta Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-221-1212

Southwest Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-435-9792

United Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-864-8331

After you're connected to a customer service agent, explain that your flight has been canceled and you need to be rebooked on another flight.

See what flights are available while waiting in line.

Finding Flights on Mobile Phone

You can easily see right from your smartphone what the next available flight options are before you even talk with an airline representative. Log onto the airline's app or visit their website and try to book a flight from the airport you're stuck at to your destination, but don't actually book it. This will show you which flights have open seats on them. The airline representative will appreciate not having to search through their entire reservation system if you present them with alternative flight options.

Don't go too overboard and try to extend your vacation another few days, because you'll most likely be charged a change fee. Focus on finding the next available flight.

TIP: Don't get hung up on finding a flight that has seats next to each other or the same class of ticket you purchased as it may further delay your departure. Try to be as flexible as possible so you have a seat on the next available flight.

Try to get a confirmed seat on the next flight.

We've all come across at least one traveler in the gate area who's flying on "standby". This means there is no guarantee they'll get on the flight, but the hope is someone with a confirmed seat doesn't show up and they'll take their seat. You'll want to avoid this at all costs unless you have no other choice. Try to get a confirmed seat assignment on a future flight, even if it means you'll have to take a later flight. That way you're guaranteed a seat on the next flight without having to bounce from gate to gate on standby.

Online chat is convenient but typically will cause more frustration.

In our experience, online chat is great for general questions but terrible for making changes. The online chat agents are there to point you in the right direction. You tend to get canned responses that sometimes don't address your issue. We've never been able to get a flight rebooked through online chat. Your best bet is to call the airline directly or talk with an airline agent at the airport.

Don't overlook the airline's social media accounts for help.

You wouldn't want to look to social media as your first avenue to getting rebooked on another flight, but this does work sometimes when faced with waiting on hold or standing in long customer service lines. Go on Facebook, Twitter, or where ever the airline has a presence and mention you're having trouble getting through to them and your flight was canceled. We've had mixed results where we'll receive a private message asking for our phone number in order to call us back. This is by no means a way to jump ahead of the line as you might have already talked with someone at the airport by the time you get a message over social media.

It looks like you won't be flying out until the next day.

People Checking Into Hotel

You've exhausted all available options and it looks like you'll be flying out the next day. Some travelers don't mind sleeping on the floor of the Miami International Airport or can't afford to stay at a local hotel. We'd rather have a good night's sleep in a bed after a long day of airline travel. In our experience, we've never had an airline pick up the hotel bill, so ask once but don't push the issue. Try to avoid staying at hotels right next to the airport as they tend to be the most expensive. Look for cheaper hotels within 10 miles of the airport where you can take a ride-share service to.

Pro Tip: Some hotels have special rates for travelers whose connecting flights have been canceled and looking for a hotel room for one night. Make sure you mention the flight cancellation, so they know you're not just someone who doesn't like advanced trip planning.

Am I entitled to a refund if my flight is canceled?

Getting any airline to refund your ticket is one of the toughest tasks out there, but it's not impossible. The flight cancellation must be the result of something within the airline's control. Bad weather is one of the top reasons for flight delays and flight cancellations, so most airlines will not refund you in those cases.

Every situation is different, so you'll want to contact the airline directly to see if your circumstances allow for a refund or compensation.

In Conclusion

If your flight is canceled, it's important to stay calm and patient. Dealing with flight cancellations can be frustrating, but remember that the airline staff is trying to do their best to accommodate everyone. Try to be as flexible as possible in order to get on the next available flight. Use all available resources to quickly get in touch with the airline's customer service agents. Lastly, if you need to stay overnight at a hotel, try to find one that's not too close to the airport as they tend to be more expensive.

With a little bit of leg work, you'll get rebooked on another flight and be on your way to your final destination.

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