What to Do If You're Stranded When Traveling
It’s not technically summer yet, but the summer travel season is upon us. I’ve written several columns about how to save money when traveling. Today I’d like to point you to some tips in the July issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine that will help you save your sanity if you’re stranded due to a flight cancellation.
Keep in touch with your airline. Sign up at your airline’s Web site or at AvoidDelays.com to receive flight alerts on your cell phone or via e-mail. As soon as you’re notified of a possible delay or cancellation, make a beeline for the nearest ticket counter. “If there are other flights available, those first few people in line are the ones who will get seats,” says Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org. If you end up at the back of the line, call the airline; you can find the toll-free phone number at www.tollfreeairline.com.
Find one room by searching them all. If you’re stuck away from home, head online to nab a room nearby. “It’s best to check multiple hotels at once with an online travel agency, instead of just calling or walking into a hotel, where one traveler can get taken advantage of,” says Bob Diener, founder of GetARoom.com. Besides Diener’s site, you can also try Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity. If you don’t have Internet access, your next-best choice is to head to the baggage-claim area and check the hotel board. Or you can phone GetARoom’s call center at 800-468-3578.
Complain with a smile. “Never sound angry or frustrated,” says Hanni. “Say very nicely, ‘It’s my understanding that I am due this coverage per your contract and I would like to have it honored.’” If that doesn’t work, explain that you’re going to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov, or call 202-366-2220).
For more tips on what to do if your travel plans are disrupted, see Traveler's Survival Guide.