It'd be great if getting home for the holidays was as easy for us as it was for Dorothy — just click our heels together three times and call it a day. But, alas, holiday traveling is a bit of pain in the ass. Crowded terminals, expensive tickets, and long security lines are just some of the stressors that come with flying home to your family. And, worst of all, holiday travelers face the occasional delay or — God forbid — cancellation. As if stress levels weren't high enough. So what can you do if your holiday flight is cancelled?
You've arrived at the airport more than the suggested hour early with fresh copies of your favorite magazines and a bagful of your favorite snacks, but no matter how prepared you are, you may still have to deal with the misfortune of a cancelled flight. But being the good traveler that you are, you can be prepared for this, too. No matter how sad or, more likely, angry you might be upon hearing this information, there are steps you can take to ensure you make it home in time for turkey. Knowing how to handle this situations is key to coming out the other side. And no, text-ranting to your best friend and yelling at the airline workers is not the answer, no matter how tempting that may be. Here are nine things you should do if — and most likely when — your flight is cancelled during the holiday season.
1. Keep An Eye On The Weather
One of the biggest culprit of flight delays and cancellations is inclement weather. In order to get ahead of any potential problems, check the forecast frequently in the days leading up to your flight. If it looks like there might be a storm brewing, take action and call your airline ASAP. The sooner you call, the more options you will have. If you can, fly out a day earlier to avoid the weather altogether.
2. Sign Up For Flight Alerts
Weather isn't the only reason flights get delayed or cancelled, so sign up for flight alerts from your airline. And check the status of your flight before you set out for the airport. It's much easier to deal with the inconvenience of flight changes from your own home, because nothing is quite as chaotic or uncomfortable as a terminal on the day before Thanksgiving.
3. Don't Check A Bag
If you've checked a bag, you're going to have a tougher time finding a flight to switch on to. Having a checked bag requires a lot more juggling for the airline reps, and they're more likely to move someone who is traveling with just a carryon. And even if you do manage to get the switch with checked luggage, there's a chance your bags won't get the memo and you'll end up home without any of your things, as if your day wasn't annoying enough.
4. Get In The Shortest Line
Most people don't realize that any customer service agent can help rearrange your itinerary, not just the one at your own gate. When the flight cancellation is announced, there will be a stampede to the closest desk, so avoid the wait and get your plans fixed faster by going to another, shorter line. You might even snag the last seat on a plane you would have missed if you were 14th in line.
5. Try The Call Center
While you're waiting in line to speak with someone in person, call the airline's customer service line as well. An agent on the phone may be able to assist you quicker than someone dealing with an array of angry customers.
6. Tweet At Your Airline
We live in the age of social media, so use that to your advantage and try tweeting at your airline. Sometimes customer service via Twitter can be the fastest way to get what you want. Just be sure to be polite — aggressive tweeters have actually been punished for their uncouth behavior.
7. Be Flexible
Know that there is more than one flight that will get you home in time for the holiday, and be open to any and all options. Maybe this means flying into a different airport, like JFK instead of Newark, or Chicago Midway instead of O'Hare. Or maybe you have to leave at the crack of dawn on Thursday. Sure it's not ideal, but it's generally a quiet travel day so your chances of getting a seat are pretty high. Just be willing to consider anything.
8. Know What You Are Entitled To
As a passenger, you are given certain rights in the case of a cancellation. Without being rude, stand your ground on these cases. Know your airline's policy on fare guarantee, travel windows, and hotel stays so that you're sure to get everything you deserve in this worst case scenario situation.
9. Keep Calm & Travel On
Take a deep breath and, whatever you do, don't freak out. The calmer you are, the easier things will be. And if you're at least somewhat relaxed, you're going to be nicer to the airline agents who are trying to help you navigate the situation – and the nicer you are, the more likely you are to get what you want. Take a moment to curse the fact that you have to deal with yet another inconvenient stress, and then cool off and handle the situation as calmly as possible.