We’ve said it, we’ve said it again, and we’ll repeat it: delayed and canceled flights are inevitable. There are always going to be some. You can whine about it… or you can prepare yourself and take responsibility to make sure you’re not like 99% of travelers who do nothing and who don’t minimize the impact when it happens (often because they just don’t know the pro tips).
This is such a great example of how literally every aspect of a trip can be drastically better when you know the pro tips (you can download a preview of 100+ travel tips in our free ebook).
Especially the tip in reminder #5. Anyway, if you never have flight disruptions, you’re clearly not traveling enough (that ebook will help you change that).
Since the weather is acting up at the busiest time of the year (and I was on TV discussing it this morning), here are 7 important reminders about flight disruptions (and a bonus one to avoid another type of flight disruption).
Overview of the 7 recalls on disrupted flights
Knowing that flight disruptions (cancellations and delays) will always exist, as a site whose mission is to help you travel more for less, we want to give you all the information you need to be a more savvy traveler.
It’s not that difficult to travel better and cheaper. But you have to take the time to learn.
These 7 reminders in relation to disrupted flights are quite vital:
- Understand that many disruptions are for your safety
- Always leave in advance if you have something important
- Go into solution mode instead of just complaining
- Take matters into your own hands to find an alternative flight
- Always get a nice hotel and good meals for free easily
- Learn about the other tips as well
- Be proactive if disruptions happen in the days before your flight
- Follow the bonus tip to ensure a better experience too
In the meantime, I’m sharing the basics for the 7 reminders about disrupted flights.
1. Understand that many disruptions are for your safety
It’s fun to blame the airlines, the airports, and the incompetent federal government (and they often all deserve it). But let me remind you that flying is about 15 times safer than driving because safety is always paramount.
The vast majority of delays, year-round, are due to weather. Airlines take no pleasure in delaying any flight. If they could take off safely, they would. They can’t be expected to take off if it’s dangerous…
And as soon as a flight is delayed, there’s a major domino effect on all the future flights for that aircraft, that crew, and even that gate. There is not much of a buffer because if there were, flights would be incredibly more expensive, and no one wants that.
In short, the whole aviation industry is built around the principle that safety always comes first. So with all due respect, as unpleasant as this situation is, it doesn’t make much sense to complain about delays if they’re caused by the weather.
As for communication and service during the disruption, okay for that, sure, complain away. Airlines are often not very good there.
But flights are always going to be canceled and delayed if the weather makes them unsafe, so you might as well learn to deal with it. It’s literally never going to change. And that’s the way it should be, for safety. You’d be complaining a lot more if airlines were putting you in danger.
(And by the way, it’s fascinating for me to hear people always say “but the weather is nice here, it can’t have anything to do with the weather”: your plane doesn’t magically appear out of nowhere! It comes from somewhere else, and that place can be affected by the weather, of course, even if the weather is nice where you are. The weather varies a lot from one place to another!)
2. Always leave in advance if you have something important
Before we even talk about the vital things to do when your flight is delayed, I must remind you of the very basic rule that always applies, summer or winter, pandemic or not: if you have something very important, leave in advance, of course!
Since delays can always happen, fly out at least one day early if you absolutely have to be somewhere. If it’s absolutely vital, leave 2-3 days ahead of time even, because a major weather disruption (or even one caused by something else) can cause a domino effect and have repercussions for many days.
Delays are a known fact of life that will not change. So act accordingly instead of ignoring it and then complaining like so many people do.
The only way to be 100% sure that your flight will not be delayed would be to not take a flight. Not a very interesting option for those who like to travel.
3. Go into solution mode instead of just complaining
Of course, it’s a frustrating situation. But being frustrated isn’t going to change anything, when there are plenty of concrete actions you can take to improve your situation that are so simple.
Almost all travelers will just whine and not take charge, so don’t be like them.
In short, if unfortunately your flight is disrupted, go into solution mode. Including with the tip in reminder #4 and those in #6 for example.
Keep in mind that, like just about everything in the travel world, the best tips are always:
- to take responsibility
- not to depend on anyone
- to take things into your own hands
- to take initiative
- to be well informed
And the solution is obviously not going to be perfect. But it doesn’t help to feel sorry for yourself. So take advantage of the delay (with the tip from reminder #5 for example) and see the positive in it; the opposite is pointless.
Being flexible and easygoing is the key to traveling for less, as we said in our free ebook… and well, it’s also the key to making travel more enjoyable.
4. Take matters into your own hands to find an alternative flight
I’m highlighting this particular tip because it’s the most important one in this situation. And the one that almost nobody does.
The airline will almost always just automatically put you back on the next flight that’s identical to yours, or the one after that. They obviously don’t have time to customize an optimal solution for each of the hundreds of affected passengers, so that’s often all they do.
Find yourself a better itinerary on the airline (or sometimes even on a partner airline) and go show it to the airline in a turnkey way: they will give it to you if you’re quick.
Don’t just wait and do nothing. Don’t ask them to do the research for you. Don’t just depend on them. You’re your own best advocate, always.
This works with the “real” airlines, but not always with the ones that are actually just an airline division of all-inclusive package sellers. Because those “leisure” airlines have far fewer flights and options.
So you can also prioritize real trips that are more authentic (and more affordable trips as a bonus), it’s going to be a better trip as well as being easier to fix if there’s a delay; it’s a win-win.
I experienced a disruption 2 times in 2 weeks in November. And both times, taking matters into my own hands had a major impact compared to all the other passengers. I’ll do a separate post on this soon to give some real-life examples.
5. Always get a nice hotel and good meals for free easily
The most vital tip for all your flights and it’s so simple too.
In addition to giving you literally hundreds of dollars in free travel, if you get the right credit cards, you’ll get lots of great free insurance when you pay for your flights with the card.
You’ll be able to stop depending on the airlines and stop complaining that they don’t pay for your hotel and meals during a delay (it’s normal that they don’t do that when the delay is not their fault: they are airlines, not insurance companies).
With the flight delay insurance offered on almost all good cards, you’re guaranteed a free hotel and meals no matter the reason for the delay. Without even having to go stand in line and wait like all the travelers who don’t know the pro tips. Without being at the mercy of anyone.
I repeat: it is so simple and always better to take responsibility! People sleep on the floor of airports (or pay for hotels out of their own pocket) when it’s sooo easy to get a nice free hotel with insurance.
It’s vital to know the pro tips. This one is really the one that’s the simplest and the least known.
I used this insurance 10 times. It gave me about $5000 worth of free hotels and meals during delays, but it also gave me tens of thousands of points for future free hotels as well!
(I love it when my flights are delayed honestly, since I follow the basic tip to fly in advance if I have something important and since I know it doesn’t help to be frustrated anyway! I take advantage of the free hotel — or the free airport lounge if the delay is shorter; we’ll have a feature on that too — because being a travel pro means enjoying every aspect of the experience; “the journey is the destination” as the saying goes!)
I’ll have a detailed article soon to explain concretely how this works too, so you’ll never be like those who have to pay for a hotel when you’re delayed or have to wait in line to beg when it’s so easy to get it for free without depending on anyone.
6. Learn about the other tips too
I just gave you the best ones, but there are other tips. Like anything in the travel world (or in life, really), the more time you invest in educating yourself, the more of a pro you’re going to be (and thus save yourself trouble and money). A simple concept.
First, in terms of what to do if your flight is disrupted, there are other tips besides finding an alternative flight yourself and making sure you get a free hotel for any delays. Like a way to get $1000 in compensation for the delay (that doesn’t work when it’s the weather though, unlike free hotels).
You can read the 6 things to do when your flight is delayed.
Second, in terms of minimizing your chances of being affected by a delay, besides leaving in advance that I mentioned, we also shared 6 other tips. Like taking early morning flights, which have the least chance of being affected.
You can read the 7 tips to minimize your chances of being delayed on a plane.
7. Be proactive if there are disruptions in the days before your flight
That was for if your flight is delayed and you are already traveling. But another thing to know is that when there are storms, airlines often issue waivers, which allow you to change your flights for free.
This is the case with WestJet right now, for example, which lets you change any flight that passes through Vancouver (YVR) until the 26th, because of the current chaos.
Be alert. In the days before your flights, check this out. You may be able to move your flight up (or back) completely free of charge if it will save you from the worst of the chaos — or just if it suits you better.
If your flight is not included in the waiver, you can try writing to the airline on Twitter to ask them if they can make an exception because of the situation, sometimes it works.
And this tip is exactly why it makes no sense to cancel a flight in advance, even if you’ve known for months that you won’t be taking it. If you wait until the last minute, there is a chance that a waiver like this will allow you to completely avoid cancellation or change fees!
I’ll also talk about this in a separate article soon, but as soon as an airline changes your flight schedule, you can almost always get a full refund! So don’t ever cancel a flight in advance like many who don’t know the tricks of the trade unfortunately do!
Bonus: Never travel with checked baggage
Not related to delayed flights specifically, but to airport chaos in general.
This is the easiest part you control entirely: never bring checked luggage.
Very simple way to ensure that it is not delayed or lost! You will save money and time!
You don’t control flight delays and all that, but it’s so easy to avoid being one of those people who complains about anything to do with checked luggage: don’t bring any!
Pro fliers always travel with just carry-on baggage. It’s doable for pretty much any trip of any length, I do it myself for trips of more than a month (60+ countries and 400+ flights without checked baggage). It’s very doable and it’s so much better.
While we wait for our ultimate guide on how to travel light soon, we’ve already got an article on why you shouldn’t travel with a checked bag and a taste of how to pack with the only 6 essential travel items and a few more recommendations.
Want to get more content on tips to make flying easy?
Flight disruptions (delayed and canceled flights) have always happened and will always happen. Knowing this, take responsibility to minimize their impact when they happen; don’t be like most travelers who don’t know the pro tips.
What would you like to know about flight delays? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Air Canada plane in the snow (photo credit: Stephen Downes)