What to do when your flight is cancelled

Your Flight Is Cancelled air view

So it happened to you too. Your flight got cancelled. Certainly, a shitty thing that can happen to anyone. I can’t undo the cancellation for you. However, I can make things run more smoothly for you, by helping you with tips on what to do when your flight is cancelled.

Your Flight Is Cancelled airport
Photo by Ashim D’Silva

Tips on what to do when your flight is cancelled

It happened to me twice already. Once on a long flight from the Maldives to Amsterdam with a layover in Vienna. And once from Amsterdam to Malaga, a short flight, but still. I have to deal with flight cancellations at work as well, and I realised so little people know what to do when your flight is cancelled. So, not at all work-related, here’s my advice to you:

1. Find your airline’s desk ASAP

This is if you’re at an airport that has one. If you have a major cancellation, like not departing that very same day, it helps to find the airline’s staff. Often they can help you rebook the flight to the first possible one and they could be handing out vouchers for a stay at a hotel or vouchers for food and drinks. These will be handed out at the airline’s desk only. If you missed it, bad luck. Often it’s not possible or a very long process to get a refund for these costs.

So what do you do at the airport’s desk?

  • Get yourself rebooked to a flight that suits you
  • Demand these vouchers
  • Check for possibilities for claims

And remember to stand up for your rights. They don’t like to make any more costs than necessary. So if you don’t ask for things, you won’t get it. (I’m saying this from experience, not to be overall negative towards airlines.) And just the heads up: It will be insanely busy with people trying to do the same thing.

Every airline is different and handles these cancellations in different ways. Some have excellent customer service.

2. Call your travel insurance in the mean time

A very, very important one. Check with your insurance what they’ll cover for you when your flight is cancelled and what you’ll need to pay for yourself. This differs in every situation. And it’s different for every insurance. I recently found out that I wasn’t insured when my flight got cancelled due to bad weather conditions. Of course, I fixed this straight away with the insurance company. And even then, it could be that the insurance won’t cover it depending on the situation.

Prepare yourself for a bumpy ride. And you’ll probably have extra costs whatsoever.

Your Flight Is Cancelled sunset
Photo by Eva Darron

3. Log into your booking online

While you standing in the queue anyway, log into your booking online if you can. This isn’t always possible depending on the airline. KLM, for example, when your flight is cancelled, it shows you optional flights for rebooking online. So if you can fix it easily yourself, please do. Because once it’s your turn at the airline’s desk, it could be that the next available flight is already full. Everyone is trying to rebook for the next possible flight. Just pointing that out.

Or call the travel company who booked for you. Often they have an emergency line you can call.

In both cases, you’ll still have to go to the desk in case they’re handing out vouchers.

4. Be fierce and demanding

As I said, some airlines won’t be so eager to hand out vouchers or help you with more claims than necessary. If you stay friendly but fierce, you’ll most likely get more done. Don’t overreact, ’cause they hate that and it will only result in helping you less.

5. Call your accommodation

Next on the list is calling your hotel or hostel to let them know your flight is cancelled. This is applicable when it concerns an outbound flight. If you don’t contact them to let them know you’ll be arriving later, they may consider your booking a no-show. Especially during high season, you’ll lose your reservation. During high season hotels tend to overbook with 10% to guarantee a full occupation. Don’t assume they’ll keep your room available if you don’t show up without calling them.

In the case of hostels, it could be that they won’t charge you for the nights not spend there. Hostels are often more flexible than hotels. In Malaga, I got a refund for 1 of the nights.

Your Flight Is Cancelled schedule
Photo by Matthew Smith

6. Hang in there and try to stay positive

For sure, this situation has everything to make you cranky and upset. However, you’ll only make it worse for yourself. When it happened to me, I could only laugh and make bad jokes all the time. Just because I didn’t know what else to do. Of course, I was crying a bit on the inside.

So, here are a few tips on making your life more comfortable when a thing like this happens:

  • Find a relaxation room at the airport. Large airports often have something like this. I found a nice relaxation room at Hong Kong Airport where you could lay down and take a nap. I could also charge my phone and use the free wifi for music. Singapore airport also has a great entertainment selection!
  • Spend money (or if you already have access, then don’t spend money) to access a business lounge. Especially when you have a long delay, spending time in a business lounge will ease up your stay. Sometimes it’s not even that expensive. When my flight to Amsterdam got cancelled and I got stuck at the airport in Vienna, a few fellow passengers dragged me into a business lounge. This was amazing! There was unlimited food, alcoholic drinks, comfy chairs and all the other good stuff.
  • Go into the city if you’re allowed to leave the airport. Why not make the best of it, while you’re there anyway. In Iceland, there’s a shuttle going from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, if you’re up for a nice swim and/or wellness treatment. Just saying.

Did you experienced a flight cancellation? And what did you do? I’m curious about how other travellers experience things like this. Do you have a story or advice, please comment below!

Let’s keep in touch? I’d like to know more about your adventures!




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