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

12 Costs of Owning a Cat
how to save money

12 Costs of Owning a Cat

Housecats may be known for their aloofness and low-maintenance attitude, but they're not cheap. Here's what you can expect to spend if you plan on ado…
October 16, 2020
26 Things Home Buyers Will Hate About Your House
real estate

26 Things Home Buyers Will Hate About Your House

As a home seller, you don't want to let the small -- or big -- fixes around your house that have added up over the years sabotage your bottom line dur…
October 16, 2020
11 Home Features Today's Buyers Want Most
home

11 Home Features Today's Buyers Want Most

Thinking about selling your house? Here are several home features potential buyers are coveting right now.
October 16, 2020

Recommended

The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Prime Day 2020: When It Starts, the Best and Worst Deals, Competing Events, More
spending

The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Prime Day 2020: When It Starts, the Best and Worst Deals, Competing Events, More

In a first, the giant retailer has pushed Amazon Prime Day this year from July to October, effectively launching the holiday shopping season weeks ear…
October 8, 2020
Retirees' Guide to Giving for the Greatest Impact
Making Your Money Last

Retirees' Guide to Giving for the Greatest Impact

The need for charity is climbing, particularly to combat the rising poverty, hunger and homelessness from the pandemic’s economic fallout. Here's how …
October 7, 2020
13 Smart Ways to Spend $1,000 or More
spending

13 Smart Ways to Spend $1,000 or More

We offer up several ways to get the most bang for your buck whether investing in yourself or others.
October 1, 2020
How to Pick the Right Medicare Plans for You
Healthy Living on a Budget

How to Pick the Right Medicare Plans for You

As you're signing up for Medicare, you must learn the basics of Medicare Part A, Part B, Part D, medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans and even doug…
September 30, 2020