It’s been some time since I’ve shared a post with you. In fact, it feels like a lifetime since I’ve felt inspired to write or been able to travel. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed things the world over in the last few years, and not everyone will feel comfortable traveling by plane—but if you, like me, have somewhere to be, then here are a handful of tips I’ve garnered lately for what to do when your flight is canceled at the last minute.
Be prepared for the unexpected
This may sound like a basic travel tip, and it is. But if you haven’t been in an airport since 2020, you might encounter some unpleasant surprises. Lines are longer than ever before and flights are being changed frequently. So even if you get to the airport earlier than you think is necessary, have extra-long layovers, etc., be ready for anything to happen.
For example, recently there have been extreme delays with security lines at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport—sometimes keeping passengers in line for up to three hours at a time. Even people who have planned ahead are finding themselves barely making their flights, missing them completely, or finally making it through security only to discover that their flight is canceled. As the saying goes, hope for the best but plan for the worst. Don’t assume that your plans will be dashed, but understand that there is a good chance that things might change.
Ask for cash, not points
So what happens if your flight does get canceled? First things first, ask for a cash refund, not airline miles or points. As pointed out by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, “you are entitled to a cash refund when your flight is canceled. When deciding whether to accept miles, it’s helpful to know their value, which varies, but often is estimated at 1 to 1.5 cents per mile.”
I don’t know about you, but 1.5 cents per mile is not adequate compensation for me. If a United States-based airline tries to bully you into taking miles or points, show them this page from the official U.S. Department of Transportation website. If the airline you’ll be flying isn’t from the U.S., do some research beforehand so that you know exactly what you are entitled to in terms of compensation.
Budget for emergencies
If you have to stay longer than planned in a certain city or country, you’ll be glad to have budgeted ahead. Sometimes airlines will put you up in a hotel if your flight has been delayed by a day or two, but this isn’t always the case and you shouldn’t assume that they will offer this voucher. A coworker of mine recently traveled to Mexico, and had to stay for an additional week when her flight was canceled at the last minute. If you are able to, set some money aside for an additional hotel stay—and while you’re at it, check ahead to see if you can make refundable reservations, if there are good Airbnb’s in the area, and so on.
Within driving distance? Consider renting a car
Okay, I may or may not have gotten this idea from Home Alone…you know, when Kevin’s mom is trying to get home, and has to hitch a ride with that band in the back of van? While that’s not an ideal scenario, you may want to have a backup plan that involves renting a car. Do some preliminary research about what companies operate out of the airports where you will be, have an estimate of how long it will take you to drive, and then factor that additional time into your travel plans. That way, if you are on your way to a wedding, funeral, or other important destination you won’t be late.
Have a sight-seeing Plan B
It never hurts to have a secondary sight-seeing plan when traveling, in case certain destinations don’t work out the way you envisioned. And canceled or rescheduled flights are a great time to make the best of a bad scenario. Stuck somewhere for an extra day or two? Use the time to your advantage and see the things you didn’t get to during your original trip.
Do you have any tips for what to do when flights are canceled? Let us know in the comments. Happy traveling!