Four ways to deal with canceled or delayed flights – The Hill

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by Adam Barnes
Daily flight cancellations and delays — including thousands over Father’s Day weekend — are forcing more Americans to make quick decisions.  
Canceled flights, stemming from staff shortages, vendor issues or poor weather conditions, have affected citizens all the way to the Biden administration, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg revealing one of his flights was canceled. 
“That is happening to a lot of people, and that is exactly why we are paying close attention here to what can be done and how to make sure that the airlines are delivering,” Buttigieg told The Associated Press in a recent interview.  
But in the meantime, here are a few expert tips to get ahead of delays or cancellations and how to navigate the chaos when the unexpected happens.  
Avoid booking the first or last flight 
Travelers should avoid scheduling the first and last available flights, when initially booking flights. This could prove especially important in the event of a weather delay.  
“You want to avoid the first flights and the last flights if you can,” Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of partner relations for Internova Travel Group, told Changing America. “Because if there’s bad weather the first flight may or may not go, and the last flight definitely won’t.”  
Avoiding the last flight might also be valuable down the line, especially during international travel or if a cruise ship is waiting on the other end.  
“Give yourself a buffer,” Vlitas said. “Because if you miss your flight or you’re late, the cruise, no ship is going to wait for you. It’s just going to sail away.”  
Christie Hudson, senior public relations manager for the online travel site Expedia, echoed this advice in an interview, saying a canceled last flight can create even greater stress for travelers.  
“Because if you do experience a delay or cancellation, you could end up staying overnight, and that’s a whole bigger headache than staying five or six hours during the day.” 
Buy flight insurance  
Pent-up demand, both plane and labor shortages, and inconsistent weather conditions are among a host of factors creating what Vlitas called “the perfect storm” for the airline industry. And in this environment, he said, it is good to have flight insurance — specifically for the rebooking process.  
Vlitas noted that having flight insurance will preserve a good deal a customer received when they purchased their ticket a few months back. Passengers face a dilemma when their flights are canceled, and Vlitas said it is easy to choose to get your money back.  
“What are the odds that tomorrow you’re going to find that same value that you found booking a couple of months ago,” Vlitas continued.  
“So, although an airline might say ‘I’ll give you a refund,’ that should be your last resort. If you really want to take a trip, you should say ‘look, you know I paid for a ticket. I want to go. What are my options?’” 
Hudson added that it may be “really tempting” to go online and book another flight, but he advises travelers not to do this. Booking another flight could jeopardize a better flight out and a traveler’s refund.  
“You’re taking a little bit of a gamble if you take it into your own hands and book something else. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get where you’re going. But you might just need to understand that you might not be getting a refund for that flight that got cancelled,” she said. 
Get in line right away and call (or chat) the airline while you wait 
Flights are canceled despite how prepared a customer may be for their trip. And Hudson said the best thing a person can do even if they have made all the right moves prior to cancellation, is to get in line with the gate agent who will have all the latest information.  
“Get in line to talk to the gate agent,” Hudson said. “It will probably be you and all the other passengers in that line. So, while you’re waiting, call the airline directly.”  
“But being patient is super important. Often, we have to remember the gate agent is also a human and has probably been working a really, really long shift because they’re understaffed,” Hudson added. “And so having as much possible understanding as we can is so important in those situations.”  
Time is essential in these situations, Vlitas added, and a particular airline’s app might be one of the best ways to communicate. He said the chat feature on the airline’s app is a faster way to reach the airline as everyone else on the canceled flight may be calling.  
“Don’t wait,” he said. “The minute something goes wrong, hit the app or call your travel agent.”  
Don’t be a no-show for a delayed flight 
The worst thing a person can do is to be a no-show on a delayed flight, choosing to “deal with it later,” Hudson said. Passengers who experience delays for short trips might think it is a better option to rent a car instead of waiting. This could be a solution but one where communication with the airline is necessary.  
“If you no-show for the flight, you often according to the policies of the airline, are forfeiting the value of your ticket and you probably won’t get that money back,” Hudson said.  
This is also important for a car rental. If one’s flight is delayed, it is vital they let a car rental company on the other end know of the delay. Otherwise, there may not be a car waiting upon arrival.  
“You may want to let those suppliers know as well, especially car rental— they’ll give away your car if you have like an hour pickup window. They’ll be like, ‘oh, they didn’t come,’ and then they’ll give away your car.” 
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