You are currently viewing 6 things to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled (while traveling)

Delayed and canceled flights are inevitable if you travel at all (and our mission is precisely to help you travel more). When it happens, most travelers unfortunately don’t know the pro tips: they get to their destination slower and most importantly, they leave hundreds of dollars on the table!

Even if you try our 7 tips to avoid delayed flights, delayed and canceled flight situations are more frequent than ever. 

So we’ll start with these 6 tips in this intro that gives an overview of each.

More detailed posts on each of the 6 things to do will follow because people prefer shorter posts.

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Overview of the 6 things to do

Flight delays and cancelations are known in aviation jargon as IRROPS, or irregular operations.

Basically, it’s when something goes wrong. 

And this is a perfect example of one of many situations where there’s a huge difference in the travel experience between those who know the pro tips and those who don’t!

So, here’s the list of 6 concrete things to do to be part of the right group:

  • Sign up to receive alerts for your flights
  • Be easygoing and ready to be flexible
  • Do your research to find an alternative flight (short delay)
  • Get free meals and hotel (short or long delay)
  • Get rebooked on another flight (long delay)
  • Get a large cash compensation

I’ll briefly explain each, but it’s worth reiterating the key to absolutely everything in the travel world. The best tips are always:

  • take responsibility
  • don’t depend on anyone
  • take matters into your own hands
  • show initiative
  • be well informed

This applies entirely to delayed or canceled flights (of course, since it applies to everything, all the time).

I personally like it when my flight is canceled! That’s because there’s some positive in there (as long as you follow the most basic tip, #7 in the tips to avoid being delayed), even if it’s hard for some to see it in the moment😉.

By the way, we’re talking about flights that are delayed or canceled on the day of the trip, while you’re traveling: when an airline changes your flight schedule in advance, that’s something else entirely, and that deserves its own post (because that can be positive, too).


Sign up to receive alerts for your flights

It’s important to receive alerts for your flight because when a delay or cancelation occurs, the travelers who are quickest to act will get the best outcome, that’s 100% certain.

So before your flight, always go to the airline’s official website to register your contact information and consent to receiving email and/or text message alerts (and turn on your email notifications the day of your flight). Download the airline’s app, too.

Taking responsibility allows you to act more quickly and to have the most options. The detailed post will show you what you should do before any flight.


Be easygoing and ready to be flexible

There’s exactly a 0% chance that being unpleasant to an overwhelmed employee will help resolve the situation more positively for you or more quickly. There’s also a 0% chance that being frustrated will help anything. 

Being easygoing is always preferable in everything, but especially during a flight delay or cancelation. It’s out of your control, but you still control having the right mindset. If you’re willing to be flexible and stay calm, finding a solution will be much easier.

Taking responsibility allows you to make the best of the situation and resolve it. The detailed post will give you some tips on how to prepare to be flexible.


Do your research to find an alternative flight (short delay)

The airline’s initial automatic solution to a delay or cancelation is often less than optimal. They don’t have time to find the best solution for ≈ 200 passengers simultaneously!

If you find an alternative flight yourself (either on this airline or on their interline partners) and bring them a fully prepared solution with flight numbers and everything else (prepare several options), they’ll almost certainly give it to you!

Keep in mind that everything becomes possible for free as soon as a delay occurs, even improving your itinerary! All changes are free of charge, like changing from a flight with a layover to a direct flight for example! But that’s only possible if you come prepared with exactly what you want — not if you ask them to do more work when they don’t have time!

Taking responsibility means you can get the best possible alternative flight. The detailed post will give you all my pro tips on how to actually do the research.


Get free meals and hotel (short or long delay)

It’s absolutely vital to always pay for your flight with a credit card that includes flight delay insurance. Always! It’s the most basic and important rule! Soon we’ll have a series with lots of videos to help you choose among the best credit cards in Canada!

You’re entitled to $500 ($1000 with some cards) for a hotel and meals as soon as the delay lasts 4 hours (6 hours with some cards)! No matter the cause of the delay (with most cards)! And you can get it without waiting with travelers who didn’t follow this basic tip and have to stand in line to beg the airline (which will probably result in nothing).

Airlines sometimes have to offer a hotel and meals depending on the length of the delay, but only if what caused it is within their control (otherwise: nothing). I never waste my time with this. I’d rather have a nicer, more expensive hotel (that earns me points for future free nights) with more expensive meals — and not have to wait in line. 

Taking responsibility allows you to get free meals and a hotel regardless of what caused the delay. The detailed post on this tip will give you a step-by-step process from my many experiences and which cards with flight delay insurance have the best offers.


Get rebooked on another flight (long delay)

If the delay is the airline’s fault, they have to pay to get you on any flight on any airline if your delay exceeds 9 hours, provided it’s a “large” airline. This is a mandatory legal requirement for all flights from and to Canada.

Normally, many credit cards also have trip interruption insurance that gives you up to $2,500 to reach your next destination after a missed connection. 

But many insurance companies voided this because of COVID-19 (as they did for trip cancelation insurance — but not the flight delay insurance I just mentioned for free hotels and meals, that one is not voided and I used it myself in 2022).

Taking responsibility allows you to assert your right to be placed on another airline. The detailed article will explain when it applies and how to get this, since airlines won’t offer it on their own!


Get a large cash compensation

The last thing to do is the one that pays the most! Depending on the flight and the reason for the delay, you may be entitled to get up to $1,000 in cash. To be clear, the other $500/$1,000 from your credit card is just reimbursement for expenses incurred during the delay, which is separate (and available regardless of the cause for the delay).

This monetary compensation is cold hard cash to indemnify you. Claim what the airline owes you! It obviously depends on the situation. If you have a flight departing from Europe OR on a European airline, any cause of delay under the airline’s control entitles you to up to ≈ $800 (depending on the length of the flight).

The Canadian government would rather defend airlines than travelers, so the rules are stricter for flights from or to Canada: delays under the airline’s control, but for “security” reasons, are also excluded. But if it applies, it gives you up to $1,000. You can choose to claim under Canadian or European Union rules if both apply.

Taking responsibility allows you to claim the amount you’re entitled to by law! The detailed article will give you all the information, including how to make the claim step by step.


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Having your flight delayed or canceled can cause a lot of inconveniences. But there are ways to turn things to your advantage or at least minimize the disadvantages when you know these 6 essential things to do in these unavoidable situations.

What would you like to know on these tips? Tell us in the comments below.


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Featured image: Waiting at the airport (photo credit: Kirk Lai)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. edmond

    Thank you Andrew ! I enjoy reading your insights to the travel industry.

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