Stuck at the airport? Here’s what experts say you should do.
Blink and Thanksgiving will be here. And Christmas. Or that end-of-summer hoorah you planned with your extended family the third week in September. Whatever the occasion, there is plenty to look forward to, but the inevitable flight delays—and even cancellations—increase as the holiday season and inclement weather loom. Here, experts weigh in on the best strategies to touch down in Vacation Dreamland ASAP.
1. Be a smart planner.
“If you're planning an important trip that you can't afford to miss, you may want to consider signing up for a service like Freebird before your trip,” advises Dara Continenza, product manager at Hopper, a popular app that predicts and analyzes airfare. “Freebird allows you to skip the line and instantly book a new ticket on any airline after a flight cancellation, significant delay, or missed connection.” With the handy tool, rebooking your flight is only three taps away, and it’s completely free on any domestic airline in the U.S..
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2. Know your rights as a traveler.
“You may be entitled to compensation from the airline if your flight is cancelled due to circumstances within the airlines control such as plane maintenance,” shares Continenza. Not sure if you’re eligible, or simply feeling overwhelmed? “There are services out there, like AirHelp, that can help you get the compensation that you're entitled to.”
3. Call your airline while you’re waiting in line to speak with a gate agent.
“If you go in expecting airlines to move mountains for you, you're going to be disappointed. Especially during bad weather, agents will be overwhelmed,” warns Adam Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Hipmunk, a free travel planning service. “To give yourself the best chances, while you're waiting in line at the airport, try calling the airline on the phone, or seeing if you can rebook yourself through their mobile app.” You’ll likely make it thorough to someone on the phone before you make it to the front of the line.
4. If you’re considering accepting a flight voucher, be prepared.
That $1,200 flight voucher sure does sound tempting but many airline flight vouchers have limitations. They have strict validity periods, some can’t be combined without other vouchers, and oftentimes, they are non-transferable (there goes that long overdue fall sistercation). Weigh the pros and cons of taking a voucher before you make a hasty decision.
5. Don’t wait for the airline to book a hotel for you.
“During large disruptions, airport hotels will sell out quickly. If the idea of sleeping on an airport chair makes you unhappy and you're stuck overnight, book a hotel yourself on your phone rather than waiting in line,” says Goldstein. “You probably won't get reimbursed by the airline (if you have trip insurance, it may be covered). But you'll at least guarantee yourself a bed rather than gambling the airline will book one for you.” These days, airlines typically won’t do this for customers, so it’s best to take matters into your own hands. As a general rule, airlines will help their frequent fliers and first and business class travelers first, so if you’re not in those categories, you may fall at the bottom of the totem pole.