The influx of passengers during busy travel times such as spring break often means airlines are inundated with problems. Flight delays and cancellations are common mishaps during these times. It is important for spring break travelers to know what they can expect to encounter when flights are disrupted. The more knowledge and preparation passengers have about how airlines work, the better they will be at handling these irksome issues.
The best way to avoid dealing with cancellations and delays is to make an effort to schedule a flight that minimizes the possibility of problems. Try to leave earlier in the day. What generally happens, especially if encountering weather delays, is problems accumulate as the day wears on. If there are serious weather delays, major carriers are often better options than the discount airlines. Major carriers have reciprocal agreements with each other, meaning they have more options in finding alternative seats. Discount carriers tend to only accommodate passengers on their own flights, meaning if the weather delay occurs at a busy time, there will be a longer wait for a substitute flight. Also, book nonstop flights when possible, because fewer stops ensure fewer possibilities of problems.
Unfortunately, delays and cancellations cannot always be avoided. As with any circumstance, the sooner the problem is known the better. Call or check the airline’s website to ensure it is operating on time both the night before and the morning of departure, and check in as early as possible. Unfortunately, airlines often wait as long as possible before canceling or delaying a flight, and bad weather, air traffic delays and mechanical issues are hard to predict.
“Most carriers automatically notify travelers — at least those who have signed up for flight alerts by e-mail, text message or phone call,” Michelle Higgins said, in her article “How To Fight Back When Your Flight Is Cancelled,” published in The New York Times. “Those alerts, which many passengers fail to sign up for, combined with Twitter, can put you ahead of the pack. Increasingly airlines, including JetBlue, Southwest and Delta, are using Twitter to notify passengers of major flight cancellations and assist in rebooking.”
Passengers’ options vary depending on why the flight was canceled or delayed and what airline they are traveling with. If the cause is the airline’s fault, they have more recourses than if it was caused by weather. If passengers cannot be rebooked in the same day and the problem was the airline’s fault, the airline is required to provide food and lodging. If it is the result of a weather delay, passengers are on their own. That is why it is vital to be prepared and pack a carry-on with a change of clothes and essentials such as food and chargers, and have the phone numbers for hotels located in departure and connecting cities.
Regardless of the reason for the cancellation or delay, airlines want passengers rebooked and on their way as soon as possible. If the airline is on top of it, it may rebook passengers in advance. Often they know a flight will be canceled before it is announced and have already worked out how to accommodate most of the passengers. For the passengers who receive a cumbersome detour and have no other way of arriving to the original destination in a timely manner, consider alternative airports.
In the case of a delay or cancellation, be prepared, be patient and stay in touch with the airline. It is important to learn to deal with airport delays and cancellations efficiently, and with a cool head. The agents on the phone or in the airport are the only ones with the power to help, so it is in the passengers’ best interest to be polite so mishaps can be promptly dealt with and spring break can take off.