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Tips & Advice

How to cope with flight cancellations

Kim Wildman
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
How to cope with flight cancellations. Image: Getty
Remaining calm is your best strategy for dealing with a cancelled flight. Getting angry and yelling at the airline staff will only lessen your chances of receiving help.
Kim Wildman
There I was enjoying my last day in Libya, when I decided to stop by the airline's office in Tripoli to check on the status of my flight scheduled for that afternoon, only to discover that it had been cancelled! What was I going to do? I was going to miss all my connecting flights and I had to get back home for work!

Have you ever had a travel experience where you were left stranded due to a flight cancellation? Have your say below.

Every traveller's worst nightmare is a cancelled flight. The more you travel, however, the more you realise that flight cancellations and delays are inevitable. So here are my seven top tips on how to avoid a post-cancelled flight meltdown.

1. Remain calm
Remaining calm is your best strategy for dealing with a cancelled flight. Getting angry and yelling at the airline staff will only lessen your chances of receiving help. Being polite, however, is bound to work in your favour. Remember, dozens of other frazzled passengers will also be demanding attention. So if you're polite and accommodating, airline staff will be more likely to try and help you out.

2. Talk to an agent immediately
As soon as you discover that your flight has been cancelled find your nearest airline agent immediately. If the queue for the agent is already a mile long, call the airline reservation number to see if they can help. Bear in mind, there will only be a limited number of seats available on alternative flights, so you must move quickly to secure a seat.

3. Find out what the airline has planned
When flights are cancelled, airlines are usually quick to come up with a contingency plan. So, chances are you may have already been booked on the next flight. However, if this flight is problematic, hold on to the ticket as a back-up (at least it is a confirmed seat), and continue to investigate your options.

4. Consider an alternative route
If you need to get wherever you are going urgently, ask your agent about an alternative route as it is often possible to make connections through another city. Just be sure to ask politely. Also, when talking to the ticketing agent, ask about flights on competing carriers as your airline can book you on another airline's flight.

5. Keep track of your luggage
Making changes to your flights may lead to problems with your checked luggage. So if you do manage to get another flight find out where your luggage is and how it will get to your final destination. What's more, if you change carriers, make sure the new airline has the details of your bag and its tag number.

6. Ask to go on standby
Going on standby is the least preferred option, but it does pay to have your name placed on the list. While you still won't have a ticket, if a seat magically opens up and you're on the list and at the gate, you'll be able claim the seat. Just remember there will be an order of priority, with flight crew members, business class passengers and anyone travelling on the airline's frequent flyer program given top priority.

7. Accept defeat
If you've tried all possible avenues and still find yourself stranded, it's important to learn to accept the situation and deal with it. Bursting a boiler over a cancelled flight won't change anything. The more informed you are, though, the better off you'll be. So make sure you're aware of what the airline's policy is regarding flight cancellations and research ahead of time to find somewhere to stay close by the airport in case there is a problem.

Have your say: have you ever had a travel experience where you were left stranded due to a flight cancellation?

User comments
We 4 travelling together had flights cancelled through a baggage handlers strike. Oh dear! long queues etc. We stood in line and when our turn came the grumpy faced counter clerk who had been tight lipped to the previous few, as we watched and waited, became totally charming when he knew we were Kiwis. Our flights were rehashed and we landed home in Auckland at virtually the same time we would have on our scheduled flights. I agree keep calm, be nice and accept you cant do anything about the delays, you may enjoy the experience.

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