Here's What to Do if Your Holiday Flight Is Delayed or Canceled

Dec 20, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images/Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

Plane travel during the holidays. Did you just shiver? Me too. Holidays are some of the most hectic times for travel and near-doomed for snowstorms that keep planes grounded. Despite the sometimes-apocalyptic levels of delays, cancellations and stranded travelers, we still show up every year to hedge our bets and try to make it home for the holidays.

If you’ve ever been stranded at an airport gate after learning your flight has been canceled, you know what an intense rush it can be to try to rebook. Here are the best tips we could find to get through a cancellation unscathed.

1. Jump in line… at another gate

The computer networks are connected, so if you see another gate that currently has an attendant and isn’t as long, jump there instead of the gate you’re at.

2. Have more than one family member get in line

If you’re traveling with family and you’re all on the reservation, have other family members get in different lines. Whoever gets to the front first can let the others know they’ve got it handled.

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3. While you’re standing in line, call the reservation line

Depending on how long the lines are, the phone call may be faster, and if you get through to an agent and get your flight resolved, you can step out of line.

4. Know your airline’s cancellation policy

Airlines aren’t required to provide compensation, but many of them have cancellation policies, and it will do you well to know them. You may have to haggle to get compensation, normally in the form of food or accommodation vouchers. If you’re on a flight to or from the EU that’s delayed more than three hours and the delay was within the airline’s control (e.g., not a strike or weather event), you’re entitled to the same compensation as someone whose flight was canceled.

5. If your flight is just delayed, still arrive at the original time

Delays become non-delays all the time, and you don’t want to miss your flight if the time bounces back.

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6. No flights out of town? Consider traveling to a nearby airport

Many areas have more than one major airport, and it could be worth the drive if there are available flights out of that port.

7. Consider Megabus

The company just announced that they’re offering free bus tickets to anyone whose flight gets canceled over the holidays. Depending on what options the airline is offering you, it may be your best bet to be able to say, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” 

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A few things you can do to avoid the worst hassle of cancellations:

  1. Fly direct or avoid layovers in places with bad weather.
  2. Try to avoid travel during heavy snowstorms (get out of Dodge beforehand).
  3. Pack light (carry-on only), which makes it easier to move around should your flight get canceled.
  4. Book an early-morning flight so you have more options later in the day

Good luck, and happy travels.

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