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  1. #1
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    Handling a Cancelled Flight for First Time

    Hello. I wanted to post about a recent travel experience to both share what we learned and to seek your knowledge.

    A couple weeks ago my wife and I went on our first trip to Phoenix, Arizona. I booked the trip in August and thought we wouldn’t have problems with the weather (in the Midwest) during the end of March. I was wrong. On the day we flew out we received and inch of snow but our flight left on-time. However, on the day of our return flight, the city was expected to receive 8-15” of snow. I checked the flight status that morning and everything looked good. I made sure that SMS notifications from the airline were turned on just in case of a delay. I checked the weather and it looked like the snow was going to end about 11PM and our flight wasn’t due to arrive until 12:30AM. Ninety minutes is plenty of time to clear a runway...wrong. On our way to the Phoenix airport, I received the text that our flight was cancelled. I’d never had a flight get cancelled before. And, ours was the last flight of the day from Phoenix to Indianapolis. I pulled over and got out my iPad to reschedule the flight. All of the flights for the next day were booked. I checked the day after and all of the direct flights were booked. I called Southwest and while waiting on hold, found a hotel since it looked like our four day trip was now going to be a six day trip. When I finally spoke with Southwest, they confirmed that no seats were available the next day and booked us on a layover flight the day after...as a one-time courtesy.

    The rental vehicle was even more difficult. When we arrived in Phoenix, we waited over an hour to receive our car. Because they had to upgrade us at the counter, we would now be charged full price if we kept the vehicle. I quickly signed up for their loyalty program and made a new reservation through Costco Travel. We returned the vehicle and went to the loyalty counter. The agent could see the reservation but because we registered less than 24 hours earlier, he could not process the rental. We went to the main counter and waited nearly an hour and a half. When we finally did fly out, we still experienced minor issues but did safely return home.

    I learned two valuable lessons. First, be a member of every loyalty program available especially the car rental companies. And, signup for the program in advance of your trip. This would have saved us 2-3 hours of standing in line time. Second, be prepared for unexpected expenses. We added two hotel nights, two days of car rental, and two days of airport parking to our total expenses.

    What could we have done different? We did we get wrong?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
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    I was flying to San Diego through Phoenix one time and we were touching down in Phoenix ,almost on the Runway when the plane turned back towards the sky under full power and we were all slmmed against the seat back freaked out of course about the issue?

    It turned out there was another plane on the Runway where it did not belong and out Pilots saw it before it was too late!

    So my tip for you is be Grateful that you made it period.

    You are not steering the Ship.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tim13 View Post
    When I finally spoke with Southwest, they confirmed that no seats were available the next day and booked us on a layover flight the day after...as a one-time courtesy.
    I'm not familiar with Southwest's IRROPS policies, but what exactly was the "one-time courtesy" here? Rebooking you if your flight is cancelled is the bare minimum they can do.

    Did they offer to put you on standby for the next day's flights? No-shows, even after weather events, are a very common occurrence as people find other ways to get where they're going or just skip the trip altogether.

  4. #4
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    Some other tips:

    Taking an uber from home to the airport can be cheaper than parking (depending, of course, on a number of factors) and can eliminate a lot of variables.

    likewise, using uber at your destination can eliminate a lot of possible problems (though this has even more "it depends" factors).

    Packing light enough to have a single bag can make standby flying much easier (many airlines won't let you fly standby with a checked bag, and when you do clear there is often not a lot of overhead space left, so having a bag small enough to fit under the seat is a big help).

  5. #5
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    Unfortunately, unexpected occurrences are to be expected in travel.

    As folks have mentioned, your best bet is to build in resiliency and contingency.
    Not checking luggage, using mass transit or ride share to get to/from the airport, packing snacks, having extra cash on hand, budgeting for more than you plan to spend, etc. will all give you peace of mind and make responding to changes easier.
    Download off line google maps, bring a portable battery for your cell phone, have a printed copy of your itinerary, have all the loyalty/travel apps on your phone (& signed up as you said), scope out inexpensive or free things to do in the area... do it all ahead of time, so you're mindfully responding, not stressfully reacting.

    Most of all, relax and go with it.
    You can't change the weather or the flight cancellations, so look for ways to make it an unexpected adventure. There are so many worse things that could happen... so as someone mentioned, gratitude and perspective will make a world of difference in whether it turns into an interesting story to share or something that poisons your week.

    It's also something that gets easier with practice.

  6. #6
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    Seems like you handled things as well as possible, given the circumstances.

    I work with a group of people where everyone seems to fly a LOT, both for business and for fun. So I hear all their stories. We are also in Boston, where the weather can be fine one day and then, wham, we are slammed with a blizzard. I would say that problems, both cancellations and delays, are more the norm than the exception, for sure. It is nice to have status with an airline, but not everyone has that luxury, and it is not proof against being seriously inconvenienced.

    The one thing I've learned from watching the way people respond is that you sort of have to roll with the punches. Other things I've noticed:

    * Flying carry-on only helps a lot, or if you can't do that, having basic toiletries, a few changes of clothes and other essentials can make you a lot happier if you have an unexpected overnight.

    * Schedule flights as early as possible. Delays tend to accumulate over the course of the day, and if an evening or night flight is cancelled, you end up traveling the next day rather than a few hours later.

    * Have a spare battery for your phone and call customer service while you are waiting in line to be rebooked.

    * Sometimes tweeting helps. Companies usually have a dedicated Twitter team.

    * This advice is only good until the car rental companies catch on and stop it, but sometimes I make multiple car reservations. In case something goes wrong with one of them.

    * If I'm traveling domestically, I do everything in my power to avoid layovers. If I'm renting a car anyway, I'll often just fly to the nearest city that offers a direct flight, even if it means a longer drive. I made that decision after a one-day delay at JFK, which turned out to be very expensive and cost me a chunk of my vacation.

    * Remember that however annoyed you are in the present moment, it will turn into a funny story to re-tell later. I don't get the one-time courtesy thing from Southwest though?! What did they mean by that.

    * Whenever possible, I pick airlines with great customer service. Jet Blue never lets me down.

    * If it benefits you to do so, consider a travel-oriented credit card that offers built-in insurance against lost luggage and delays. I have Chase Sapphire Reserve. I would not get it solely for that reason, but if you can otherwise take advantage of the points and travel credits (so that the card actually helps you financially despite the high annual fee), it's a great deal. It also offers lounge access in a lot of airports. I find there is little that life can throw at me that isn't improved by a glass of wine.
    Last edited by bchaplin; 04-07-2018 at 02:09 PM.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  7. #7
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    You did most things right.

    Joining every points programs is smart. Even if you are not a frequent flier or traveler having that number will put you above those who don't. Plus, you'll get notifications of deals. I'm about to embark on a lenghtly trip to Europe taking some airlines I've never been on but I joined all the FF programs. And hotel programs. (There are some that will give you discounted rates by just joining.)

    When a flight is canceled, the airline has to get you on the next available flight. This one time courtesy was garbage. Granted, they are not going to keep changing your flight. Next time look to see if there are any empty seats on a competitor airline. If there are, ask if they will put you on it. Depending on how many canceled flights they have, they might do it. It worked for me in the past.

    You can never tell when a flight delay will happend. I got a text message around midnight one night that my flight the next morning was canceled and I needed to call the get rebooked. I was in Germany and the local call center had already closed. I had to call the U.S. number to get hold of someone.

    As someone else mentioned, if there is a line, while on it, call the airline to see if they can help. With limited rebooking availability it's first come first serve and you can sometimes get hold of someone on the phone faster especially if you are at the back of the line.

    For some cancellations, the airline is responsible for food and lodging during your delay. Unfortunately, in the U.S., weather issues are not considered the fault of the airline and they don't have to offer anything. In Europe, the airline would have paid for your delay expenses.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

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  8. #8
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    One other thing to check, is flying into or out of another airport. For example, I live in Maine but usually take the bus down to Boston and fly out of there. Flights can be half the price and the bus ride is more comfortable than a second flight. So one day flying out of Boston, the flight was cancelled while I was on the bus. There was a big storm and everything was cancelled that day, and the next day was looking pretty bad as well. The airline was able to rebook leaving from Portland (which was a lot more convenient for me!) because it's a much smaller airport.

    The initial delay was unavoidable, but my rebooked trip through a smaller airport worked out well. Even if that had been a little more out of the way, a $25 bus ticket, or 100 mile drive really would not have been a terrible expense, when the alternative is spending the day at an airport on standby.

  9. #9
    Forum Member kathryn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tim13 View Post
    I checked the weather and it looked like the snow was going to end about 11PM and our flight wasn’t due to arrive until 12:30AM. Ninety minutes is plenty of time to clear a runway...wrong.
    I don't think you were wrong about how long it took them to clear the runway for landings, but that doesn't take into account all the other flights that were supposed to land before yours did, during the snowstorm, then had to be landed, deplaned, loaded, and take off again. There's a finite number of landings and take-offs per hour that ATC can handle, and that goes down as weather conditions worsen. Also, the plane itself may be needed elsewhere, if the delay is long enough, so then you're also waiting on equipment to be available, in addition to a landing slot at your destination.

    I think you did everything you could have done in the situation--a foot of snow is going to snarl up even the best-prepared airport! In addition to having status, or at least a loyalty account, with an airline, it might help to have the airline's branded credit card (which may even offer you some kind of travel insurance coverage for things like extra hotel nights).

    Contingency plans, carry-on only luggage, and a knowledge of what you're entitled to under the airline's COC are your best tools in any delay or cancellation situation. Be aware that the latter changes based on airline, location, and cause of delay or cancellation, but Southwest's referring to rebooking you as a "one-time courtesy" has me a bit baffled.

    As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the airline, the more options you're likely to have: a mainline carrier may get you home the same or next day while something like Spirit might take a week.

    The advice I think is most useful has already been covered by bchaplin and Frank II: be on the phone and in line at the same time. You can't predict who'll get to you first, and when they do get to you be polite, reasonable, and flexible, and understand what you're entitled to and what you're not. If the CS agent who helps you does a great job, make sure you know their name and take the time when you get home to email the airline about it.
    "I'm more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.” ― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette

  10. #10
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    I second @bchaplin's note about having a credit card with travel delay/cancellation insurance. I'll slightly disagree in that I think it is actually worth it (from the point of view of the annual fee) to have such a card, but you don't need to go for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, as the lower-priced Chase Sapphire Preferred also comes with coverage. That card has $95 annual fee, waived the first year. There are differences (on CSP, it is 12-hour delay or overnight, vs just 6 hours with the Reserve), and the Reserve comes with lots of extra benefits. And there are other cards by issuers other than Chase with these benefits, but I now always put airfare on a card with that kind of coverage. Whatever other hassles I'll have in getting where I'm going, be annoyed at having to pay for an overpriced hotel room is not one of them.

    I'll give a specific example of the benefits of having the CSP: last year I was delayed flying from Inverness to Shetland. The EU has stronger consumer protections, so the airline had to pay for a cab, meals, and hotel anyway. But instead of waiting in the crazy line to be booked by the airline, I got a room on my own at Culloden House, which is a very nice hotel I would like to stay at anyway, and was relaxing in a bathtub while other passengers were still in line waiting to be rebooked. I have had extremely bad experiences with airline-selected hotels during delays in the past (I actually left a hotel that BA tried to stick me in and successfully claimed for another). Chase covered the stay at Culloden-- which was about $350-- in full, and I was a much happier traveler.

  11. #11
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    The contract on your ticket is to get you from point A to point B...not on any prearranged schedule. Consider yourself lucky. Generally Southwest is good at going that extra mile, but when the SHTF and they have lots of customers to get in or out of a snowpacked area...but I'm sure I've received such courtesies more than once.

    I got stuck in Little Rock last year when Delta had a weather meltdown in ATL and all the phone lines were down. Once I got to the front of the line, they were booking 5 days out to get me to Florida, well into a scheduled family vacation elsewhere. I was lucky enough to snatch an Allegiant direct to Orlando the next morning. If I hadn't lucked out, I'd have been going for a long road trip or a lot of Netflix binge-watching.

    Aside from the loyalty programs, you did pretty much everything you could reasonably do. Sometimes, your luck just runs out...hope for the best, plan for the worst!

  12. #12
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    Not so long ago I had two flights cancelled out from under me because of a snowstorm at my destination. The first was cancelled the day before flying (obviously the snowstorm was well forecast) and the airline rebooked me on the second flight, later on that same flying-day, which was due to land long after the storm had finished i.e the same situation as the OP but in reverse. This second flight was cancelled 30 minutes before boarding and there were no flights available for another 3 days. (There went that conference.)*

    I have learned from this experience that where there is (a) a snowstorm (b) any cancelled flights (mine or anyone else's) and (c) a rebooking on a flight due the same day at some time after the storm ends, to immediately re-book onto a flight first thing the next day. Particularly if you're flying a larger airline with a lot of planes to get in position, it's a near certainty the later (rebooked) flight on the same day will also be cancelled. And by the time that later flight is cancelled, all other available space on the next few-days' flights will be gone.

    This trick saved me the next time around ....

    *Edited to add: That is, I was originally flying out at 11 AM on Day 1, and was re-booked to fly out on 7 PM on Day 1.
    Last edited by Misplaced; 04-09-2018 at 08:20 AM.

  13. #13
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    Thank you all for the responses. Excellent information that I am saving for our next trip.

    Additional thanks to @bchaplin and @turnleftbrighteyes. I went down the rabbit hole learning about travel cards. Just came up and have a new CSP on the way for all our future travel (and delays).

  14. #14
    Forum Member Alice in Wanderlust's Avatar
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    I recently had my first foray into a canceled flight. I'll just share my experience with American Airlines. I had text and email alerts set up, made sure my phone was charged, and was automatically rebooked once the flight was canceled. It was the last flight of the evening, so they rebooked for the next day. I went to the main check in to verify the flight - it was small airport, I was killing time, and was prepared to just hang out in the airport overnight. I got my boarding passes, found out they don't like people staying at the airport overnight, and was immediately offered a decent hotel at about half their regular rate with free shuttle to/from the airport.

    The next day, the flight was slightly delayed, my connection was also delayed otherwise I would have been running at the last minute. It ended up being a fairly painless process despite the loss of a day.

    My lesson is to make sure text updates are set up, which seems like a given, and it saved me a lot of time. When I finally got to my connecting airport, my connecting flight gate had changed and was not yet delayed. I only found out via text as we landed. I had to hurriedly recheck the map for an unfamiliar airport and ponder whether I had time to take a bathroom break, as it was already supposed to be boarding. It ended up being marked delayed as soon as I showed up.

    If you're unfamiliar with the airport, have a map downloaded in case of gate changes.

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