Travel

How to Overcome Travel Delays and Cancellations

Travel hiccups are unavoidable. Here’s how to navigate them.

Everyone has a tale of travel gone wrong. The recent computer crash at Delta was just the latest in a long line of airline mishaps that have caused widespread disruptions. A hiccup here and there won’t ruin your trip. But if you encounter a full-on snafu on your next flight, knowing your rights and planning ahead can save you from becoming another horror-story victim.

Most airline delays and cancellations are caused by technological failures, such as the Delta outage, or weather-related problems. In either case, virtually all airlines promise to book you a seat on the next available flight at no additional charge. (A handful of airlines, including Delta and United, may book you on another airline at their discretion.) For individual cases, that might be the end of your troubles. But in the case of a massive disruption, delays can derail your trip for days. If you decide not to proceed with your trip, you can apply for a full refund, even if you hold a nonrefundable ticket. But if packing it in and going home isn’t an option, you’ll have to proceed to Plan B.

You’ll generally fare better if the delay or cancellation is the fault of the airline. For instance, in a long delay (typically four hours) due to equipment malfunction, Alaska, Hawaiian, United and WestJet provide meal vouchers. And those four as well as American, Delta and Sun Country will provide overnight accommodations in the case of a delay that continues after 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. If the airline can’t get you into one of its affiliate hotels, you’ll get a voucher worth the price of a stay to spend toward a future flight. Other airlines might be willing to provide assistance if you explain your situation, but they are not required to do so.

If you’re delayed by weather or some unforeseen event, such as a workers’ strike, airlines will offer little assistance, and you may have to foot any delay-related bills yourself. It pays to act quickly. The TripIt Pro smartphone app for Apple and Android ($49 a year) will send you alerts about cancellations, delays or gate changes on the fly, sometimes even ahead of an airline announcement. The free FlightAware app (Apple, Android and Windows) will also let you keep tabs on your flight. If you wake up the day of your flight and the weather looks dicey, book a refundable hotel room near the airport.

Hedge Your Bets

Travel insurance can compensate you for the costs associated with a trip interruption. You can purchase some policies up until the day of your trip, but err on the side of buying early. If you buy after it’s apparent that bad weather will ground your flight, for instance, you may forfeit coverage. George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, recommends that you reject the airline’s coverage and compare policies at third-party sites such as Squaremouth.com and TravelInsurance.com. The insurance will likely pay expenses such as meals and hotel stays during a delay, and policies will often cover nonrefundable costs for unused hotel rooms or tour packages at your destination. But read the fine print, says Hobica: “The insurer’s de­finition of a delay may be very different from yours.”

 

Your credit card company may also be able to help. If you’re delayed by more than six hours, or if you need to stay overnight, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card will reimburse you for up to $500 per day in necessary expenses, such as hotel rooms and meals. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige cards offer similar coverage.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
9 Great Growth ETFs for 2022 and Beyond
ETFs

9 Great Growth ETFs for 2022 and Beyond

These growth ETFs offer exposure to higher-risk, higher-reward stocks while lessening the risk of a single stock torpedoing your returns.
January 18, 2022
The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022
CEFs

The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022

These high-yielding CEFs won't just significantly boost your portfolio income. They'll also allow you to buy their underlying stocks and bonds at a di…
January 12, 2022

Recommended

Alpine Skier Takes a Third Run at the Winter Olympics
Travel

Alpine Skier Takes a Third Run at the Winter Olympics

This downhill racer has been on the U.S. ski team since he was 19.
January 26, 2022
What to Expect from the 2022 Summer Travel Season
Travel

What to Expect from the 2022 Summer Travel Season

Travelers have been dealing with the trials and tribulations of canceled trips and elusive refunds for nearly two years. It will get better this year.
January 25, 2022
22 Products You’ll Waste Money Buying at Warehouse Clubs
Costco

22 Products You’ll Waste Money Buying at Warehouse Clubs

We talked to shopping experts to find out which products shoppers should steer clear of (and why) at warehouse clubs Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s.
January 22, 2022
Time to Press the Money ‘Pause Button’ after the Holidays
spending

Time to Press the Money ‘Pause Button’ after the Holidays

If you overspent on the holidays, and spoiled your kids in the process, now’s the time to make some changes.
January 20, 2022