Flight Dysfunction – it happens to everyone

Flight Dysfunction – it happens to everyone

For me, there’s nothing more fun than checking in for a flight. 

I love clicking that little “Check-in Now” button because I know it means within 24 hours I’ll be winging my way to someplace new.  

This year on Boxing Day I checked-in with that same excitement. My holidays had been delightful but I was ready to head back home, get back to booking travel, and then …

2 minutes after I checked in, the green bar refreshed to orange – DELAYED. and then, not even a minute later, it refreshed to red – CANCELLED. 

Cancelled is not a good feeling. So what does one do when this happens?*

an Airport Lounge inset with a photo of a Boarding pass and  cancelled sign

Here are a few tips I learned when it happened to me 👇

*For my cancel and delay, I had refundable tickets. ALWAYS read the terms and conditions for the tickets you purchased to know what the options are through the airline. If you purchase non-refundable tickets and/or no travel insurance your options are very limited.

First (1) : Put on your biggest suit of patience you can find – also known as your big boy/girl pants

  1. Find ways to acknowledge the employee and the work they are doing to try to help you – keep in mind they are handling hundreds, or thousands, of disgruntled customers, you are just handling you
  2. Be pleasant. Now is not the time to be upset and annoying. Belittling or yelling at employees who have no control over the situation will not get you anything other than grief. Employees have every right to hang up on or stop assisting people who are being abusive in language or any other way.
  3. DO NOT be that person – going viral on TikTok or Twitter because you acted like an idiot is not going to help you in the end

TWO (2) : Decide what you’re willing to spend to get home on schedule

This is really important to know. What will you spend? If you’re a family of five, can you shuck out the money to buy tickets on another airline? In my case, if I was willing to pay almost three times the price of my current ticket for another airline, I would have been home in two days, but I wasn’t willing.

THREE (3): Go onto the airlines app and rebook the flight to the first available flight out.

Secure a seat home regardless of how far out it is. For me this was four days later, way longer than I wanted but at least I knew I had a seat. Knowing this helped me stay in the groove of goodness as I then turned to accommodations and transportation.

THREE (3) : Contact your travel insurance emergency line [of course, you purchased travel insurance… right?]

Connecting with the travel insurance will help you know the process for claims. Knowing what documents you need to submit will ease your mind as you face any unexpected costs. These costs could include new pajamas, toothbrush/paste, more big girl/boy pants, hotel, rental car, food, etc. If you purchased a policy, make sure you have the documentation you need to get that money back.

FOUR (4): Arrange for any accommodations and rental car you’ll need for the extended time.

Here again, kindness to the employees should be your method of choice, adaptability and flexibility a close second and third.

A hotel only has so many rooms available and staff to assist. Hotels are also typically unaware an airline is cancelling flights, they are also caught off guard. This plays out in that they may have vacant rooms but no staff to support those rooms, e.g., room service runners, waitstaff, housekeepers, bellhops, etc.

If you’re nice, they may be able to help you in a unique manner. For example, my parents were put up in a hotel conference room in Oslo when they were stuck in the city because of strikes. They needed to be out by 6 am so the hotel could prep the room for the conference but did get a lovely breakfast included in the stay. While it was far from ideal and not wonderfully comfortable, they weren’t sleeping on a bench.

Be nice, you might just be surprised with what you get.

FIVE (5): Call the airline and check the on-line app for options to change to earlier flights

We all feel like our situation is unique and that a live person will help best. I agree in normal circumstances, but with flight changes and cancellations it just adds to the frustration. Who among us enjoys a couple hours of Madonna and Maroon 5 covered as staticky light jazz?

No reason to choose frustration waiting on hold. Embrace technology. One of the things to use airline app technology is not being trapped in their phone tree. For me, by using the app, I booked onto a new flight and got started sorting out everything else within 5 minutes of my flight being canceled. Technology is a good thing.

My flight was initially a four-day delay but, every day I went onto the app to look for earlier flights. Delightfully it happened. I ended up getting home only three days late rather than four. I never called or waited on hold, just used the app and voila – done.

My take-away thoughts and tips about flight changes.

Make good choices about who you are, leave anger at the door, and find the parts of the delay that make you smile. The best way to handle change is to start by choosing kindness, this is how to be a good traveler.

Let’s talk Travel –


Martha L. Day, CTA is the founder of Opal&Finch, a luxury boutique travel company. She currently writes for the Katy Trail Weekly, CityLife, and Vibrant Connections.

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