What to do When Your Flight Gets Cancelled

If you have done any flying over the last few years, you have probably had to deal with a cancelled flight at some point in time. When it happens we are often left wondering what we should do. Here I have put together some steps to help you with what to do when your flight gets cancelled.

I decided to write this post after my daughter recently had to deal with a slew of cancellations.

In one day her flight was cancelled three times (to be fair, it was only cancelled twice, the third time it was delayed so much that so would not make her connection) and it took her all day to get to her destination, just two hours in flying time from where she started.

My other daughter had two flights cancelled a few months ago a day before she was due to get on a cruise ship. We ended up driving twenty hours across the country with that one and claiming compensation.

All my recent cancellations have been well in advance so I have always had time to adjust my travel plans, but it still leaves me feeling nervous right up until the moment we take off every time.

Knowing what to do when flights are cancelled makes me at least feel a little prepared for the eventuality. I hope this will help you feel more prepared too.

A man standing at a counter holding a passport with his head in his hand

Tips for Choosing Flights

Before even getting to the cancellation stage, there are a few things you can do to make your life easier if it does happen, right from when you book your flights.

  1. If you are flying for an event or special occasion, make sure you build in a buffer with plenty of time. For example, if you have a wedding on Saturday, fly on Wednesday or Thursday, and if something goes wrong you still have time to get there.
    Or, if like in my daughter’s case, you are meeting a cruise (or tour), don’t rely on getting there the same day. If my daughter had done that, she would have missed her cruise entirely and not had the option of a crazy interstate drive.
  2. Perhaps pay for a premium airline rather than a budget one. This is, of course, no guarantee, especially if the cancellations are due to weather, but some airlines do have better past records than others, meaning there should be less likelihood of cancellation for other reasons. Some airlines also have more flights from a destination – if the next flight isn’t until the next day, options are limited.
  3. Book direct with the airline. I cannot stress this one enough. If you book through a travel agent, then you may have to get them involved in fixing the issue, which, if it’s time sensitive and you’re already at the airport, adds an extra layer of difficulty.
  4. If you are booking connecting flights always book through one airline or leave a day between flights. Note that booking flights through a travel agent or online booking platform may give you connecting flights that are not interlined, especially if using low-cost carriers.
    When the flights are booked together on the same PNR (Passenger Name Record) if there is an issue, the airline is obligated to fix both flights. If not, then a cancelled first flight can leave you missing a second flight that the first airline has no connection to.
A man and a woman sitting on the ground holding passports with a suitcase next to them

What to do When Your Flight Gets Cancelled

So you’ve done all the right things, carefully chosen flights, booked with a time buffer – and then there is a cancellation! You will most likely be quickly rebooked on the next available flight, but that may not suit your requirements.

When your flight gets cancelled, here are some steps you can take to minimise the inconvenience and resolve the situation:

  1. Stay calm and gather information: Check the airline’s website, mobile app, or contact their customer service to get accurate information about the cancellation. Understand the reason for the cancellation and the available alternatives. If, for example, the cancellation is due to the weather, it doesn’t matter how much you push to get on a new flight, it may not make a difference.
  2. Know your rights: Familiarise yourself with your passenger rights, which may include compensation, rebooking, or accommodation provisions. These rights can vary depending on the country, airline and the specific circumstances of the cancellation.
    For example, those dreaded weather cancellations are seen as an act of God and are often not covered beyond being given a replacement flight.
  3. Contact the airline: Reach out to the airline’s customer service through their hotline, email, or social media channels. Be patient, as many other passengers may also be trying to contact them. Ask about the available options, including rebooking on the next available flight, rerouting through another airline, or getting a refund.
    Be kind, because you are probably not the first cancelled customer they have talked to that day, and you are more likely to get a resolution if you are reasonable (I know this can sometimes be hard in stressful situations).
  4. Consider alternative transportation: If your flight cancellation significantly affects your plans and the airline doesn’t offer a suitable alternative, you can explore other transportation options. Look into trains, buses, or rental cars as alternatives to reach your destination.
    When we had to drive across the country to make my daughter’s cruise, the cost of the rental car was reimbursed by the airline as the cancellations were due to crew issues not weather.
  5. Document everything: Keep records of your conversations with the airline, including names of the representatives you spoke with and any reference or confirmation numbers provided. This documentation will be helpful for any potential claims or disputes later on.
  6. Check your travel insurance: If you have travel insurance (and you absolutely should), review the policy to determine if it covers flight cancellations and what benefits you may be entitled to. Cancellations are an added extra on my policy, so don’t automatically assume it is covered. Contact your insurance provider to initiate a claim if necessary.
  7. Arrange accommodation and meals, if required: In some cases, airlines may provide accommodation and meals if the cancellation forces an overnight stay. Check with the airline to see if they offer this assistance, or consider booking accommodations independently if necessary. As I mentioned above, cancellation due to weather mostly will unfortunately not cover this except in rare circumstances – and that is where travel insurance will come in.
  8. Stay updated and be flexible: Flight schedules can change frequently, so it’s important to stay updated on any developments. Be flexible with your travel plans and consider alternative routes or dates if it helps to expedite your journey.
  9. Seek compensation, if applicable: If the cancellation falls under certain circumstances, such as within the airline’s control or due to overbooking, you may be eligible for compensation. Research your rights in this regard and follow the necessary procedures to claim.
    Here in Australia, we don’t have a method for compensation yet, but there are EU and US rules in place. If you are flying internationally, check your options carefully. It could mean you get hundreds of dollars in compensation.
  10. Share feedback and reviews: After the situation is resolved, consider providing feedback to the airline about your experience. This feedback can help them improve their services and may also contribute to your case if you’re seeking compensation.

Remember, each situation can be unique, and the course of action may vary depending on the airline’s policies and regulations. Stay patient, persistent, and proactive in seeking a resolution that works best for you.

Planning a trip? Read these posts next
A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Your Trip
How to get Foreign Currency for your Travels
Too Old for Hostels? A Gen Xer’s Guide to Budget Travel

TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.

Found this post useful? Share it with your friends and pin it for later

Pin image for a post called "What to do when your flight gets cancelled". view out of a plane window with "cancelled" stamped over it and a man with his head in his hands
Pin Me