Nothing can be more stressful than a perfectly scheduled vacation being derailed by a flight cancellation. Every little detail on your tight schedule has to be adjusted and you have to learn to adapt on the fly.
Take a deep breath and relax! Everything is going to be okay if you cannot make it to the pristine waters of Greece or snow-capped mountains of Switzerland as early as you would like.
When you read the dreadful news that your flight has been canceled, here are the first steps you should take.
Contact Your Airline
The airline you are flying with will have the most up to date information of the scenario. If you are already at the airport with your bags, head to the service counter to speak with a representative. The earlier you speak with your airline, the quicker you will be scheduled on the next available flight to your destination.
Remember, your airline is obligated to book you on another flight free of charge in case of a cancellation. You might have to wait an extra day to reach your destination or have to mix up the itinerary, but there will be no extra financial burden to your trip.
If you are lucky, the airline might be able to book you on a flight with a different airline that has extra seats. That is why contacting the airline is the first thing you need to do.
Ask for a Food or Hotel Voucher
The exact policies of each airline will vary, but you will qualify for food and accommodation vouchers should your cancellation be within the airline's control. If the cancellation was caused by uncontrollable circumstances, such as inclement weather, then the policy may not be as generous.
No matter the reason for the flight cancellation, you should always speak with the airline about a voucher for meals and a hotel to get you through the night.
You Could be Entitled to Compensation
It is important to know which airline you are using and the airports you will be flying to and from. Travelers who frequently venture to Europe should ensure they are well aware of EU Regulation 261/2004.
In the event of a delay over three hours or a cancellation, you could be rewarded compensation from the airline. The specific amount will depend on the length of your flight but will be between 250 to 600 euros.
You can potentially qualify for compensation due to your flight cancellation if you are departing from an EU nation or flying to an EU nation on an airline based in an EU nation.
Do NOT accept any alternative forms of reimbursement, such as travel vouchers or discounts on future flights, until the airline has informed you of all options.
Do You Have Trip Protection?
You may also be rewarded compensation if you purchased the flight ticket with a credit card or bought travel insurance.
Some credit cards offer extended coverage for cancellations as long as the flight was booked with that same credit card. Should your flight be canceled, call your credit card company to inform them of the situation to see if you are eligible for such compensation. This is one of the primary benefits of booking an airline ticket with a credit card instead of a debit card.
The same principle applies for travel insurance. If you purchased travel insurance during your online booking or to cover your entire trip, then you need to file a claim with the travel insurance company. It is crucial that you read the exact policy before making the final purchase. It would be disappointing to find out that the travel insurance policy you bought failed to cover flight cancellations.
Make the Necessary Adjustments to Your Trip
Once you have been booked on a different flight and inquired about vouchers and compensation, you need to contact anyone that will be affected by your delayed departure.
If you have a hotel booking, inform them of your dilemma so they do not deem you as a no show for your reservation. Staying with friends instead? Contact them to inform them of your new estimated time of arrival. Should you have any other bookings impacted by this later arrival, touch base with all of them about your flight cancellation.
Avoid further stress during your trip by keeping everyone in the loop!
Remember to Relax!
Always keep a cool head in the event of a flight cancellation. Although it can be a frustrating experience, sometimes things are just out of the airline's control. Stay calm and rest assured you will reach your final destination!