You guys probably saw the news and heard that Wow Airlines went bankrupt about a month ago. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw a post about it and my heart immediately went out to the employees of the airline and airport employees who were affected by the sudden closing of the airline. Thousands of people were now unemployed and I prayed that they would be able to not only get home if they were currently out on a trip, but that they would be able to find another job.
My thoughts then turned to all of the passengers who were now “stranded” at various airports and passengers who had upcoming trips. I mean, I’ve been in situations of delayed and canceled flights but never to this extreme. Two years ago during my birthday trip to Atlanta my flight home was delayed by a few hours, but Frontier comped us lunch and we were home before the evening was over. Then both legs of my Portland flights were canceled. One the night before and the other was about 2 hours before it was supposed to take off. I was put on other flights and Southwest made sure to give me flight vouchers, but that doesn’t always work for every situation. Especially in the situation of Wow Air when the airline no longer exists.
So what do you do when your flight gets delayed or canceled?
Calm down – It sucks and no one likes to be in that situation, but it happens. It’s something you have to deal with when it comes to traveling by air, and rather than getting yourself all worked up and possibly displacing that anger on someone, take a deep breath and calm yourself.
Why? – That question is asked almost immediately by everyone, and the answer to the question could affect your next move. Is it weather related? Does the plane need maintenance? Not enough crew for the flight? Reasons like that will often lead to you being comped at least a meal in the airport, if not lodging at a local hotel. And those are all dependent on how long the delay is or if it’s a full cancelation.
Know your rights – Okay, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but flight schedules aren’t guaranteed and you’re not technically owed compensation by an airline if flights are canceled or delayed. Now I’m not saying that they won’t, because that would be bad customer service, but don’t be shocked if you’re denied compensation. Many times they’ll offer to book you on another flight and may even throw in some miles or flight credit as a gesture of good will. That’s what happened to me with Southwest for my Portland trip. If that doesn’t work you may even be offered a refund of your ticket, but that’s a process in itself. I always encourage people to get travel insurance or at least make sure that the credit card they use to book their tickets comes with some kind of insurance so in cases like this you’ll be covered. It can be a long process whether you’re getting a refund from the airline itself or if you’re processing an insurance claim, but make sure you’re covered.
Check-in 24 hours before – I probably should’ve put this first. I cannot tell you how many people I see checking in for a flight once they’re at the airport! I mean, I get it especially if you have to check a bag and you’ve already chosen your seat, but even then I want to make sure that I’m checked in for my flights 24-hours ahead. That way I’m not bumped if by chance the flight is oversold, and I’ll get the most current information for my upcoming flight. I have the apps for my most used carriers on my phone so I can easily check in there, or I can just log into their website on my computer and complete the process in seconds. Please save yourself some time and future headaches by checking into your flights on time.
Customer service can be your friend – Gate agents are not the end all be all. When I went through that snafu in Portland I immediately tweeted Southwest and then got ahold of their corporate office to make sure that not only was I put on the next flight out, but that I was compensated for my inconvenience. The gate agents were swamped and had entire groups to rebook, and were trying to do that as quickly as they could. I knew that I was important as a customer, but I also knew that there were other avenues I could take to get customer service to help me so I used them.
Closed mouths don’t get fed – Once you know your rights, don’t be afraid to use them. I wouldn’t have gotten the flight credit from Southwest had I not gotten ahold of their corporate office, the gate agent originally turned me down because she said that my delay didn’t meet their minimum to offer comp flight vouchers. I was confused and a bit frustrated, but didn’t lash out at the gate agent when I received that bad news. Instead I reached out to corporate and was given the correct information and a voucher for my inconvenience. Closed mouths don’t get fed! Make sure you do it in a way that’s respectful, but don’t be afraid to reach out to someone else to get clarification if you need it.