What to Do When Your Flight Is Canceled

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When you're stuck at an airport and the airline refuses to help, it might seem like you have no options. But you do.

A United Airlines flight from China was recently delayed by three days. According to ABC News, the situation was so tense that violence broke out at the airport.

United has now dropped to last place in on-time arrivals among the major carriers. While some blame maintenance difficulties as a result of their merger with Continental and others cite a possible pilot strike, one thing’s clear: United passengers are probably in for a bumpy ride this summer.

Delays are bad enough. But what should you do if you are flying United – or any other airline – and you experience a flight cancellation?

1. Be prepared

Never take it for granted that your airline will get you to your destination as promised. If you’re on a tight schedule, spend a few minutes looking up different flight options that will get you to your destination by the time you need to be there. Consider alternate airports that will get you close enough. That way, if your flight is canceled, you can suggest an alternative when you call the airline. Speaking of which…

2. Don’t stand in line

When just one or two flights are canceled, it’s not uncommon to witness hundreds of  people waiting in line at a customer service counter. Don’t be one of them. Pick up your phone and call the airline. If no one answers, go to a business lounge and try to speak with an agent. If you don’t have a lounge membership, you can always buy a day pass. And in this case, it might be worth the expense.

3. Use a concierge service

There’s a service called the Cranky Concierge that will spring into action in the case of a delay or cancellation to help re-route you to your destination. Prices start at $15 for a one-way domestic flight and go to $150 for urgent assistance 24 hours a day. Again, this might be one of those times when spending the money is worth saving the hassle.

4. Reschedule

Most airlines will allow you to reschedule your trip to a different day if you experience a delay of more than two hours. Keep that option in mind if you’d just rather go back to the beach than return home and go to work.

5. Get a refund

You paid the airline for them to take you someplace, and they didn’t. If the carrier can’t (or won’t) reschedule you to arrive there on the same day, ask for a refund. Each carrier has different rules in what’s called its “contract of carriage,” but at some point, you’re always able to call it quits and get your money back.

Bottom line…

You have ways to convince the airline to re-route you, or just get your money back. But if you don’t prepare for a cancellation before it happens, you’ll be part of that angry mob at the counter – and you won’t be going anywhere fast.

Stacy Johnson

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