Don’t Panic: Here’s What To Do If Your Flight Gets Canceled


The minute you find out that your flight has been canceled, your heart immediately sinks into the cold airport floor. All your hopes and dreams of an on-time vacation are officially ruined. But don’t panic, travelers. Here’s what you should do if your flight gets canceled.

Call your airline.

As soon as you get the text/email/loudspeaker alert that your flight won’t be taking off, call the airline. There’s only one way to know your options, and that’s by asking an airline customer service rep.

If you’re already at the airport and waiting in a long line to see a gate agent, call the airline while you’re in the queue. You might have better luck getting through to a customer service agent than asking the frazzled desk agent to assist you and 40 other fuming passengers in the exact same second.

Know the fine print.

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Airlines don’t legally have to do much for you if your flight is delayed or canceled. However, they’ll likely rebook you on the next available flight. Unfortunately, some budget airlines won’t — or they might leave you waiting a really long time until the next flight. Be ready to advocate for yourself. No one else is going to be the voice asking for your spot on the next flight.

(A pre-flight pro tip: When you buy your ticket, don’t scan over all that fine print. Check the airline’s cancelation policy in order to have a better idea of what you’re owed in case something goes wrong.)

Ask a lot of questions.

It’s important to get all of the information they have to offer, especially if you have a connecting flight or are traveling internationally. Inquire about your flight connections and ask them to consider your entire journey when rebooking you on a future flight.

If you’re changing your travel plans to include another country, take into account that you’ll have to pass through customs if you leave the airport. Make sure you have the proper visas to do so and get back to the airport to catch your flight.

Be polite but bold.

Being overly pushy won’t earn you any favors with the airline staff, but waiting for everything to fall into place won’t get you on the first flight to your destination, either. There’s a delicate gray area where standing up for yourself and asking for your money’s worth is still polite. You paid for a ticket. You deserve to arrive at your destination as soon as possible. So ask a lot of questions, offer up a lot of thank yous and be patient.

Let’s say you’re stuck overnight. If the airline is to blame for the cancellation (mechanical failure, crew overscheduling, etc.), ask for a complimentary hotel room. The airline will almost never offer you hotel accommodations, but if you politely ask for assistance in finding a place to sleep, you might get a voucher for a nearby hotel room or at least a discount.

Sadly, if your flight was canceled because of weather or something out of the airline’s control, you’re probably out of luck. You’ll be paying for a hotel on your own dime or napping in the airport.