If you check the recent numbers on flight delays you can find out that it’s not a rare event. Just in April 2018, 36 736 flights were canceled globally and 10 664 just in Europe. This is ~2% of the whole air traffic. It means that one of 50 flights are canceled. Is it a lot? Whatever your answer is, I think it is better to know the what to do if flight is cancelled? before it will be canceled.
Step by step on “What to do if flight is cancelled?”
– Ladies and Gentlemen. We regret to inform you that your flight XXX has been canceled.
Did you ever hear such message through the speaker at the gate? If no, then you are lucky. Unfortunately, it’s not in my case – I think at least 10 times my flights were canceled due to various reasons.
That’s why I’m giving you this step by step, easy to remember tutorial about what to do if flight is cancelled? Follow these steps and you will reduce your stress level caused by this situation by half:
1. Watch the gate.
It’s boarding time and nobody calls people in? Can you feel that the atmosphere is bit nervous? Remember this – each cancellation starts with personnel running around, calling and discussing. It’s like tremors before an earthquake. If you see such symptoms, use this time to find your airline number where you can rebook your flight and approach the counter – you will be the first one in the queue to speak with staff at the gate.
You should also prepare your booking reference number and your loyalty program card (if applicable). Visit the restroom because if the flight is going to be canceled, you will have to spend quite a long time in the queues…
This what is written above is applicable only when you will show up at the gate earlier than the boarding time. I have some bad memories from the recent cancelation – it’s a really disturbing situation coming at the gate on time and seeing all the turmoil happening at the counter… then you realize what just happen. I don’t recommend this feeling – I’d rather advise coming to the gate earlier.
2. First minutes after the announcement.
Minutes, after you realize what has happened, are crucial. Imagine, it’s Friday in China. You are about to depart with A380 plane to Europe. Unfortunately, a nice lady at the gate is announcing that due to some reasons your flight is canceled. Now the fun part begins… Around 500 people start to arrange their return flight. I think now you feel why I said that the first few minutes after the cancelation message are crucial.
As fast as possible put yourself in the queue to the gate’s counter desk. Probably, this is the place where they are going to rebook you for the next flight. It can happen that staff will ask you to move to the airline’s desks at the departure hall. Then use your running experience and sprint to be the first 🙂
In the previous point, I mentioned the airline’s loyalty programs. If you are a special premium status holder, then this is one of these moments when you will bless this card. In most of the loyalty programs, passengers which hold premium status are rebooked automatically – if you are happy with the new flight date and time, then you can relax – you know how and when you will come back to home. Otherwise, and this is the most common case, you are not satisfied with this what you get. Then you have to go anyway through the next steps of this tutorial.
3. Be well informed
You have to rebook for the first available connection. Remember that all the rest of the people will try to do the same and there are not many possibilities. Usually, you will be offered with return flight a day after or even two days after. To avoid it, search the outbound flights by route on flightstats.com:
and check the all possible outbound flights to your destination:
this will be a valuable information during the discussion with airline personnel. They love determined and well-informed people.
4. Try to call in your airline
Try to connect with your airline while you wait in the line. If you succeed, it can speed up your rebooking. One remark – it can take a while before somebody will pick up a phone. It means that you will spend even an hour on the phone. Therefore keep in mind that connections from some parts of the world are extremely expensive and you can lose a fortune on that. As an example, rates from China can costs 4 EUR per minute or more (depending on your mobile operator rates).
Some of the mobile operator plans have built-in protection against large bills. This means that after exceeding a certain amount of connections your roaming feature will be cut off – you will lose your phone. This is the worst case scenario but you need to know if such restrictions are in your operator’s plan. Check it before your trip. As I always say: always assure, never assume 🙂
Anyway, to prevent losing money on huge phone bills and keep calling to rebook yourself, you should buy travel insurance before you will leave the country. Make sure that the insurance you buy has an option to cover all costs which will arise if your flight will be canceled.
5. Be persistent
If you followed the previous point, you already know possible outbound flights from all airlines. Now you are going to ask the people at the desk to rebook you for another carrier. You ask for a lot, and they are not obliged to do so. Ted Rall in his article on things to do when a flight is canceled suggests how you can handle with such situation: “Be polite, but firm — don’t leave the front of the line until they’ve agreed, or airport cops show up and start pulling out truncheons”.
6. Loyalty programs pay off – again
Hopefully, you are holding now a new boarding card for the next flight to your destination. I bet your flight will be in 3, 4 or even 10 hours from now. If you are a premium member of your airline loyalty program you have the free access to the airline’s lounge where they serve food, drinks and you can use some of the cozy armchairs or sofas. You can rest and wait for the next couple of hours in comfortable conditions. That’s a value – imagine, once I got stuck at the Beijing airport for 16 hours! This lounge literally saved my life 🙂
The article you read is following the previous one on plane delay compensation for EU flights and is a part of series “Flight delay compensation guidebook”. This is a pretty useful guide. I described there, in step by step tutorial, how you should proceed in order to apply for remuneration for delayed or canceled flight. You should read this article to know what to do after coming back home from longer than expected trip.
8. Hotel refund in case of cancellation
This point describes what to do if you failed to rebook on the plane you wanted and your final option is this what airline offers. Usually, it means that you will depart one or even two days later. So you need a hotel. But no worries. If your flight arrives in the EU then you are protected by EU law called The Flight Compensation Regulation. It means that base on Article 9 of regulation 261/2004 you are entitled to:
(a) meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
(b) hotel accommodation in cases
– where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, or
– where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;
(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).
and it works. I tested it with Lufthansa for several times. You get the hotel and meal voucher at the counter desk.
Here again, you have to hurry up. Check in to the hotel takes time and hundreds of your former co-passengers are going to do this.
So, if you want to avoid standing in the line for the next 2 or 3 hours, waiting to check-in for in the hotel, you better stick to points 1 and 2 and be the first one in each queue 🙂
What to do if flight is cancelled in a nutshell
Now it’s time to resume. All the facts in a nutshell:
- Try to be the first one in each queue.
- Come to the gate at least a quarter earlier before boarding time.
- Observe the airline staff at the gate. If you see excessive confusion among the staff, prepare your airline number where you can rebook your flight, booking reference number, your loyalty program card (if applicable) and approach the counter.
- Collect the possible outbound flights and use this knowledge in discussion with the airline’s staff at the counter desk – ask for any possible rebooking which suits you, even the ones with another carrier. Be persistent.
- Use your loyalty program cards to spend the remaining time till your departure in comfortable conditions.
- In need of accommodation refer to the EU law to get the refund.
- After return to home place the flight cancellation complain.
I think that’s all you need to know on what to do if flight is cancelled.
Comment on your personal experiences and share if you consider this post valuable. I’d love to hear your life hacks on this topic.
Featured image source: pixabay.com