With summer on the horizon, air travel is about to become a lot busier. Hopefully, if you plan on flying, everything will work out the way it should. It never hurts to be prepared, though, in the event that they don’t.
Airlines have yet to rectify the ripple effects caused by COVID-19. Though this post-pandemic world is returning to normal in many aspects, the airline industry continues to face staffing shortages and complications from outdated aviation infrastructure and technologies. Increased flight disruptions are part of the current reality.
When you choose to fly, you run the risk of flight delays and cancellations.
When Your Connecting Flight Is Canceled
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) states that you are entitled to a full refund for the unused transportation if your flight is canceled and you decide to cancel your trip as a result.
While it’s reassuring that you can get your money back, it doesn’t actually resolve the immediate problem at hand: Where do you go from here?
Flight disruptions tend to be a bit more manageable when you’re dealing with them close to home. However, facing a cancellation during a layover can be incredibly frustrating and stressful.
Reign in your emotions and consider your next steps. Taking a moment to clear your head and think rationally will do you wonders. You can only control what you can control.
Remember that you aren’t the only person affected by this cancellation. Proceed with self-awareness and kindness.
Can you afford to miss your trip? Is it worth more to you to reach your destination than it is to return home or the first point of departure? You will have to make this decision to figure out your next step.
If you choose to cancel your trip and return to the first point of departure, you are entitled to a refund and a return flight. If you are unable to proceed through the airline app, the best way to move forward is to call the airline directly or approach its customer service counter at the airport. Better yet, call the airline while you are waiting in line for the customer service desk so you have your bases covered.
As you’re thinking about your options and taking inventory, consider the following points:
- Does your credit card provide trip cancellation/interruption insurance?
- Did you purchase travel insurance for your trip?
- Can you easily cancel your reservations at no cost and rebook in the future?
- Are you willing to cover additional costs to reach your destination?
- Do you have loyalty status that can help offset costs to reach your destination?
These questions can help you decide whether it’s worth it to you to find a way to your destination despite the flight cancellation.
Don’t Rely on the Airline
Your airline should assist you after they’ve canceled your flight. Unfortunately, as Brian and I recently learned, this doesn’t always happen.
Ideally, your airline should rebook you on the next available flight to your destination at no additional cost. To rebook a different flight, you can work directly with the customer service counter. If you’d rather avoid the hassle, you can typically rebook your flight through an airline kiosk, the airline website, or the airline app.
If no flights are available or you face a significant delay, it’s time to do some research to see if any other airlines offer the same route. Hop online to see if you can find other alternatives.
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A Different Airline
If you’ve located a route with a different airline, you can actually ask your airline to transfer your ticket. The DOT recommends a polite and proactive approach (be prepared with options!) since airlines are not obligated to put you on another airline’s flight.
Think Outside the Box
If the airline refuses to transfer your ticket, then consider other options. Don’t limit yourself to what the airline tells you. Are there any other realistic ways for you to get where you’re going?
Think outside the box. As long as you can safely reach your destination, it’s time to get in the driver’s seat to figure out the next step.
– Same airline, nearby airport: Is there a flight route that brings you close to your destination?
– Rental car availability: Is the layover location within a drivable distance of your destination?
– Connecting flight: Is it possible to change your ticket to a different location and then purchase a new connecting flight from there to your destination?
– Mixed modes: Can you fly elsewhere and then catch a train, bus, or rental car to your destination?
These options might seem much more complicated than they’re worth, but that’s up to you to decide. You can choose to wait it out and see what your airline can sort out for you, or you can try to take matters into your own hands.
How We Handled Our Canceled Flight
Our Alaskan adventure got off to a pretty rocky start. After many years of avoiding United Airlines, we thought we would give them another shot. Ordinarily, we fly low-cost carriers, but we decided to “treat” ourselves with a more encompassing carrier. The flights were reasonable enough, with a single 2.5-hour layover in Denver, CO.
Connecting Flight Canceled
Brian and I were on our way to our gate when we received a notification that United canceled our connecting flight to Anchorage. This alert popped up less than 10 minutes before our Denver flight was to board. The gate agent was of no help.
First, she scolded us for not coming up to the desk earlier to get our bags situated. Luckily (and intentionally), we travel with carry-on only. Then she blatantly told us,
“It’s now or never; you have to decide if you’re getting on this flight.”
She had no straight answers about the next available flight to Anchorage. She couldn’t tell us if it would be available the next day or the day after. So, Brian and I took the risk, hopped on the plane, and hoped for the best in Denver.
Once we arrived, we learned that United Airlines grounded all flights to Anchorage for 48 hours due to volcanic ash. Here’s the confusing part: No other flights to Anchorage through any other airline had been canceled.
United Airlines allows you to book a different flight or request a refund online. Unfortunately, when we attempted to do so, we received an error message, prompting us to call their customer service line.
Before reaching out to customer service, Brian and I hopped onto our laptops to do a little research. We wanted to be sure we could come up with some contingency plans. Using Kayak and Flight Connections, we eventually decided on flying into Seattle and then continuing to Anchorage.
United Airlines Customer Service
Brian and I had to visit the help desk twice to get our tickets switched over to Seattle. It was a disappointing experience. The agents actually laughed at us and told us that we were not getting to Alaska anytime soon. They interrupted us several times and handed us a card to call for a refund. It didn’t matter how pleasant we were; they simply did not want to help.
We finally secured tickets to Seattle. At this point, we understood that we were definitely on our own.
Connecting Flight to Anchorage
Our flight to Seattle was due to land 30 minutes before an Alaska Airlines flight departed for Anchorage. Rather than buying Alaska Airlines tickets and running the risk of missing our flight, we chose to wait until we landed.
It all worked out.
Our Seattle flight landed early, and the Alaska flight was delayed by an hour. We bought our tickets at the gate. Even though we weren’t able to purchase tickets for the delayed flight (the one we wanted to board), the Alaska Airlines gate agent was able to switch our tickets for that flight. She was patient, kind, and incredibly helpful.
After all that fuss, we arrived in Anchorage only 3 hours later than our original United flight was supposed to land. It took a lot of positive energy and quick thinking to get us there, but we made it.
Brian and I were on the go that entire time; we never got to eat. Ultimately, we spent our downtime, a good deal of patience, and an additional $600 to get to our destination.
The next day, I decided to reach out to United Airlines on Twitter. I understood that there was likely no recourse for recovering funds due to our transfer to Seattle. I figured, though, that it couldn’t hurt to at least ask.
I’m happy to report that they reimbursed us for half of the extra cost. It’s better than nothing. All in all, we got where we needed to be.
Minimize the Impact
It’s disappointing when travel doesn’t happen the way you planned. That’s the way life goes sometimes. To minimize the impact of frustrating circumstances, it’s best to maintain a positive attitude and prepare for the unexpected as much as you can.
Flying is risky business, especially these days. To avoid increased chances of delays or cancellations, it’s recommended to book nonstop flights during the early morning hours. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.
Another way you can prepare yourself for possible trip interruption is to book your travel with the right kind of credit card. Credit cards with trip cancellation and interruption coverage can help you arrange new itineraries, manage reimbursements, and get you back on the road.
Have you dealt with a canceled flight during a layover before? What was the outcome?