Here’s what to do if your flight is canceled, as overwhelming demand and labor shortages rattle airlines and disrupt summer travel


Travelers queue up at the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Denver.

Travelers queue up at the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Denver.AP Photo/David Zalubowski

  • Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed this Juneteenth holiday weekend as airlines struggle to manage demand and labor shortages.

  • This follows a turbulent Memorial Day weekend, pointing to ongoing summer travel woes.

  • Here are six tips to deal with delayed and canceled flights this summer.

If the Memorial Day and Juneteenth holiday weekend travel snarls are any indication, flight delays and cancellations are going to be an unfortunate theme this summer.

Airlines have canceled or delayed nearly 16,000 flights within, out of, or into the US since Friday according to Flight Aware, thwarting holiday plans for travelers around the country, and in one case, even leaving dozens of passengers stranded for more than 24 hours at the Atlanta airport.

The travel woes have intensified since Memorial Day weekend, when more than 2,500 flights were canceled, as airlines struggle to keep up with overwhelming demand and labor shortages that have left many carriers understaffed.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pressed airline executives this week to improve operations by taking steps like cutting additional flights from summer schedules. Buttegieg warned that the Department of Transportation may take enforcement action, such as fines against carriers, if they don’t comply, Politico reported.

Many airlines have already started scaling back on summer flights, with carriers like Delta announcing that it is slashing 100 flights per day in July and August to prevent further disruptions caused by high demand and the national labor crunch.

Still, the travel disruptions continue. While there’s no foolproof method to avoid being stranded when flight cancellations and delays strike, travelers should take precautions before heading to the airport to increase their chances of resolving airline-related issues.

Here are six tips to deal with delayed and canceled flights.

Know how to contact an airline

Southwest Airlines

A Southwest airport agent helping a passenger.Patrick T. Fallon /AFP/Getty Images

At the airport, airline gate staff and customer service agents can help rebook flights in the event of a cancellation or delay. Travelers should find the closest customer service center as early as possible.

Airline phone numbers are also available on their websites and apps; it can be worth saving those numbers into your phone’s contact book ahead of time.

Here are the customer service numbers for US airlines:

  • Alaska: 1-800-252-7522

  • Allegiant: 1-702-505-8888

  • American: 1-800-433-7300

  • Avelo: 1-346-616-9500

  • Breeze: No phone number. The fastest way to contact Breeze is via Facebook Messenger.

  • Delta: 1-800-221-1212

  • Frontier: 1-801-401-9000

  • JetBlue: 1-800-538-2583

  • Southwest: 1-800-435-9792

  • Spirit: 1-855-728-3555

  • Sun Country: 1-651-905-2737

  • United: 1-800-864-8331

Social media can also occasionally be a useful resource — sending an early direct message to the carrier’s Twitter can act as a virtual placeholder on the customer service line. However, given the influx of messages in recent months and the growing use of glitchy customer service chatbots, this isn’t always effective.

Know how the airline is preparing for inclement weather

American plane after landing on a snowy day.

American plane after landing on a snowy day.EchoVisuals/Shutterstock

US airlines often preemptively waive change and cancel fees, as well as fare differences ahead of major storms. In the case of severe winter storms this January, Frontier, JetBlue, United, Delta, American, Spirit, and Southwest all issued travel advisories on their website and outlined policies.

Travelers should regularly check their carrier’s website for any updates and make changes to their reservation as soon as possible.

Use an airline’s mobile app or website to rebook

United mobile app.

United mobile app.United Airlines

Airlines have made it easier for passengers to rebook with a mobile app. Flight change fees will be waived in those cases and travelers, in theory, should be able to find and book backup flights.

During high-traffic periods including ones following airline meltdowns, however, availability might be scarce as thousands of fellow passengers are also trying to rebook. If online means of rebooking aren’t being helpful, talking to an airline representative is the next best bet.

Know your traveler rights

Passengers in line in Miami to rebook canceled American Airlines flights in 2021.

Passengers in line in Miami to rebook canceled American Airlines flights in 2021.Taylor Rains/Insider

Airlines must provide a refund to travelers who cancel their bookings outright, according to the Department of Transportation.

Travel credits offered by the airline can often only be used on that airline, while a refund gives travelers additional freedom, whether it be to scrap a trip outright or rebook with a different airline. However, the airline may not be inclined to help once a booking is fully canceled and refunded.

Travelers can also request vouchers for meals and hotel stays if disruption to a trip is severe. In the case of weather, there is no obligation for airlines to offer anything to passengers because the disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control, so passengers may be limited in what they get.

Moreover, there is no federal law requiring carriers to compensate passengers for delays, according to the DOT, and airlines are given the freedom to create their own reimbursement practices. Travelers should be familiar with their carrier’s delay policy and not be afraid to ask for a meal or hotel voucher regardless of the reason for the delay.

Understand travel insurance and credit card coverage

Amex Platinum vs Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum travel credit cards.Jenny Cheng/Business Insider

Certain travel credit cards including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum Card have built-in trip insurance when you book with those cards.

One event that may apply is if you can’t reach your destination for at least 24 hours “due to severe weather (or another covered reason),” traveler insurer Allianz’s website reads.

But not all policies require a 24-hour delay. The “trip delay reimbursement” benefit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve provides reimbursement if your travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay.

Insider used the reimbursement policy on a trip in summer 2021 and was covered for all expenses.

Settle in for a long wait — and know when to jump ship

Airport lines

An airline traveler making a phone call.Phil Walter / Getty

Remember that airlines will be handling the same issues for thousands of customers, as well as trying to return to its normal schedule. Long lines and waits will be incredibly common.

Travelers might consider alternate means of transportation if flying doesn’t look immediately possible. A rebooked flight might also be canceled or delayed as the airline gets back on its feet.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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