Image for the article titled How to Plan for Canceled and Delayed Flights Before They Happen

Photo: By Maxim Blinkov (Shutterstock)

Due to a number of problems – weather, labor shortages, reduced capacity – flight delays and cancellations was an even bigger effort than usual this summer. Even though you may not be able to avoid them completely, there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe from too much trouble.

Book your trip with delays or cancellations in mind

Try to allow maximum flexibility wherever you can – especially as the pandemic is still able to turn your travel plans upside down. Follow these tips to protect yourself.

Get a refund if that’s your best option.

Sometimes flight delays and cancellations are serious enough that you might as well cancel your flight and claim a refund. If a flight is canceled for any reason and the traveler decides not to rebook with that airline, the passenger is entitled to a full refund, according to the Department of Transportation.

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If there is a “significant delay“The airline should give you a full refund, although they may fight you as” significant “is vague. Before booking the flight, check the airlines’ cancellation policies as they define them. Many airlines will try to offer a voucher, but you can also push for a cash refund – especially if you can refer to their own refund policy.

React quickly.

If a flight is canceled or delayed, do whatever you can to speak to an agent quickly. For example, if you are standing in line at the airport to speak to a ticket agent, use this time to reach the airline via their app or by phone. Also use sites like Google flights or Skyscanner to keep track of alternative flight schedules.

Learn how to contact your airline.

This is not easy as the phone lines are congested. This Lifehacker post will walk you through that fastest way to contact someone by phone for each airline, but if that fails, consider social media or even go straight to the airport to speak to a ticket agent.

Stick to direct flights.

The fewer connecting flights you have, the less likely they are to be delayed. Sure, direct fares can be more expensive, but in this case, with all the uncertainty of traveling, a little more expense acts as a kind of insurance against unexpected delays or cancellations. Consider choosing flexible rates and avoiding cancellation fees if you can.

Book seats together when traveling with friends or family.

To ensure that your fellow passengers’ seats are not blown to the wind after a flight is canceled, book all seats as part of a reservation, as you are more likely to be rebooked as a group on another flight.

Allow yourself more time between connecting flights.

As a rule of thumb, allow 60-90 minutes for domestic flights and two hours for international flights. However, consider a longer layover – closer to three or four hours. Sure, it will add to your day of travel, but think of it as a form of travel insurance, especially if you are hooked up to a regional flight that only operates a few times a day.

Avoid baggage checks.

Checked baggage can have a major impact on whether you can rebook on another flight, especially at short notice. It also helps you avoid the crowds at the baggage carousel.

Consider taking out travel insurance.

Your credit card will likely offer some protection for canceled flights, so you’ll always want to pay for the flight in plastic. And if you have travel expenses that you don’t want to pay in the event of a flight being canceled or delayed (e.g. a trade show booth), you should consider purchasing additional travel insurance to cover those expenses. Insurance can be extensive in what it actually covers, so check the fine print. There are costly “cancel for any reason” policies, but depending on the nature of your trip, it can be worthwhile.