Flight cancelled because of weather? Here’s what to expect
Modern airplanes can pretty much handle any type of weather. They’re designed to take lightning strikes, travel in snow and heavy rain and can even handle windstorms. But when an airline deems the weather too unsafe to travel and your flight is cancelled, what should you expect the airline to do for you? As always with everything in life, your results may vary. Here’s a basic guide.
Flight cancelled or delayed?
The first thing to tackle is the differentiation between a cancelled flight and a delayed flight. Sometimes the flight might just be delayed coming in to the airport because of weather or your flight might be delayed because of weather at your destination. If your flight is delayed, you’ve pretty much just got to stick it out. GO grab a coffee, fire up a podcast, and relax. You can’t do much, so you might as well try and have as much zen as possible.
If your flight has been completely cancelled, remember that the airline has an obligation to get you to your final destination, just maybe not as quickly as you’d like. If your flight has been cancelled, it’s quite possible that 10 other flights have been cancelled as well. That might make it difficult to get you on the “next” flight, as everyone else on your flight is busy trying to rebook and there is a finite number of seats available.
How to change flights
Time is of the essence, and you’ve got to act fast when a flight is cancelled, so know your options.
1) Call the airline.
This might be the worst option for you, because if the airline is cancelling flights everyone and their second cousin is also calling. On our flight last night, even calling the gold 75k line, the wait was over 3 hours. That obviously is NOT going to work to get you on a flight.
2) Use the app
Most airlines will allow you to change flights in app. The Delta app gives you options for even a 1 minute delay! Alaska, when checking in, will allow you to change to a later flight if you so desire. In the event of a cancellation, the app might be your best friend. Make sure to download the app for the airline you’re flying before you head out.
Most of the representatives inside the airline lounges are glorified check-in agents. They can make changes, rebook, reprint boarding passes, and often there is little to no wait at all. When we had to rebook ourselves, a quick trip to the Alaska lounge found no wait and compassionate agents who were willing to do whatever it took to make things right.
4) Gate Agents
Chances are the gate agents outside know what’s going on, so they can get you on a new flight. Depending on the time of day (and how big of a hub you’re in) you might have 1 agent or 10.
5) Move fast!
Seriously. Don’t doddle. Move your butt and get to one of these places ASAP. Lines form fast and if you’re stuck at the end, get comfy curling up in a ball on the floor because all of the flights and accommodations are gonna be gone.
Arm yourself with information
If you get to the front of the line with zero information, then you’re at the mercy of the gate agent. If you’re the 60th angry person he or she has seen, then chances are you’re not getting what you want. Come prepared. Know the flight schedules and know what’s available.
This could be as simple as jumping on kayak.com and finding what the options for flights are out of your city. Have status? Check the first class cabin as well. A compassionate agent can move you into the front cabin if you’ve got a compelling reason to get home soon.
When we got to the agent, we let her know that we saw the 10am flight and the 1115am flight were available, so force feeding the information made our change very easy and quick.
So, what exactly does the airline have to do? Do they have to get you home today? Do they have to get you home at all? It’s kind of a gray area.
Know that an airline does have to get you home, but your idea of a routing might not be the same as the airline. Sometimes other airlines have flights, but just because you’re flying on Delta and United has a flight available, the airline doesn’t have to get you on that plane. In the case of a mechanical cancellation or delay, then yes, you may ask to be changed to another airline to get home, but for weather, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). It doesn’t hurt to ASK as most airlines have agreements with each other for certain situations, so please go ahead and ask!
The nonstop flights that you might want could also be sold out. In most cases, they’re not going to kick someone else off of a flight just to get you onboard. There needs to be confirmable space on the plane in order for them to put you onboard, but as long as there are seats for sale, you should be good to go.
Will they pay for my hotel? My food?
Now this is a real gray area. Technically, no, the airline does not have to give you any hotel accommodations for the night if its weather related, but it could change. Most airlines will try and provide for their first class passengers and elite members (NoMasCoach!) but if you’re booking in economy class, you might be stuck.
When we informed the agent that we were first class passengers, she made a quick phone call and boom – our room at the Sheraton was confirmed ☺
If the flight was cancelled because of a mechanical delay then yes, they do need to provide you with a place to sleep since it’s on them, not an act of God.
This does however lead to the last piece of advice…
This may seem like an obvious one, but being nice will get you very far when it comes to delays and cancellations. By the time you’re finally getting your turn, this nice customer service agent has turned into a horn growing beast because he/she has been berated by uninformed passengers demanding that the airline change the will of the weather (#ClimateChange) and how they MUST get home. Yes, I understand, we all must get home, you’re no different than the other people. We’re all in this same boat together.
Smile, thank them, be compassionate, and maybe you’ll get a nice comfy flight on the way home.