What to Do If Your Flight Is Canceled

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A series of issues have forced some airlines to cancel flights. Here’s how to cope if you’re affected.

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But Southwest is hardly alone, as millions of travelers return to the skies. On Thursday and Friday last week, for example, 2.06 million and 2.16 million passengers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. This is more than double the number recorded on the same dates last year, before a COVID-19 vaccine was available, and closer to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 at 2.6 million and 2.68 million, respectively.

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This crowd of people has created trouble.

Some airlines were overly ambitious with their plans and are now regretting such a huge flight schedule. Spirit Airlines Inc.,

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For example, it canceled about 6% of its flights between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Airlines are also dealing with other issues such as vaccine mandates, undocumented passengers and mask regulations. Together, the issues make flying difficult and can lead to outright cancellations.

While cancellations are out of the hands of fliers, it is useful to know how to make alternate plans. Here’s a quick guide on how to prepare.

Before you go

Check your flight status and download the airline’s app.

All airlines have apps for mobile phones that passengers can use to check their flight status. Similar tools exist on airline websites. Customers can sign up for push alerts on their phone or by text message and email.

Alerts can be helpful to let customers know if their flight is canceled or delayed or the gate has changed. Alerts can also tell customers when a flight is about to begin boarding and provide other information, such as which baggage carousel your luggage will arrive at.

when your flight is canceled

Most airlines usually offer a new flight. While the alternate flight will probably take place on the same day at the airport or hub where you are, the severity of the issues that led to the initial cancellation and its long impact may limit options. Open seats are usually offered on the next available flight.

Rescheduling can often be done through an app, or passengers can call airlines directly. An alternative option, depending on the airport, is to speak with a gate agent or customer-service representative in the terminal itself.

Whether you purchased your ticket directly from the airline or with a third party will determine the level of service you will receive. In some cases, customers may be asked to contact a booking company such as Expediahandjob

instead of the airline.


According to the US Department of Transportation, your right to receive a refund as a passenger is clear.

“A passenger is entitled to a refund if the airline has canceled a flight, regardless of the reason, and the passenger does not wish to travel,” read the policy. Refunds must also be given in case of “significant” schedule changes or delays.

According to USDOT, the definition of a significant change or delay depends on many factors, and there is no comprehensive definition. Factors include “length of delay, length of flight and your particular circumstances,” according to the federal agency.

Your status with the airline may matter

Many passengers are part of frequent-flyer programs, and some have special status within the airline due to their loyalty and annual travel volume. This can have its own benefits with respect to cancellation.

Often, specialized phone line and desk agents at an airport can help reschedule the fight for valuable customers. For example, United Airlines has a Premiere Priority Desk to help with booking and other scheduling needs, including finding new flights after cancellations.

Other Airlines and Airports

If flying with the airline you originally chose is no longer an option, or you have received a refund, looking for flights on another air carrier may be the next best thing.

Still, the cost of that flight can be quite high due to the last-minute nature of the purchase and the sudden demand if several other flights to your destination are canceled. Similarly, nearby airports may be the next best option for you.

In addition to the potential for increased prices, be prepared for additional expenses, such as the cost of transportation to the nearest airport or car rental.

Talal Ansari and [email protected]


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