Recent months have been extremely difficult for airlines despite, or because of, rapidly increasing demand for leisure travel. With a shortage of airport and security operation staff, pilots, summer thunderstorms, and restrictive FAA actions, travel has been a challenging experience for many. The lucky are faced with hours-long lines. The unlucky are left with rolling flight delays or cancellations. For example, over one weekend in June 2022, nearly 14,000 flights were canceled or delayed "within, out of, or into the US." If taking flight this summer, be proactive and ensure you are prepared to respond to delays and cancellations.
Get to your destination as directly as possible. Even if the ticket costs more, consider a nonstop flight. Also, opt for a flight earlier in the day for two reasons. First, weather events are more common in the afternoon. Second, for the first flight of the day, the airplane is likely already parked at the airport, so you don't have to worry about the plane you're scheduled to fly on not arriving.
Check your flight status frequently. Download the airline's smartphone app and turn on push notifications so you receive alerts to any changes, sometimes even before gate agents make announcements. You can monitor the status of your inbound aircraft and get a heads-up on potential delays this way.
Book your flight directly on the airline's website or with a travel agent to ensure a smooth customer service experience should something go wrong. Avoid discount websites or online travel agencies, as in many cases, changes have to be handled directly with these groups rather than with the airline directly.
Airlines will often issue travel waivers ahead of anticipated bad weather or, as seen recently, if they expect to be overwhelmed. This is your opportunity to consider if you really need to travel on the specific dates you booked. You can usually reschedule flights to depart or arrive a few days earlier or later and avoid paying fare differences. As long as your destination remains unchanged, this can be a helpful way to get a nonstop or more timely flight.
PLAN FOR A CANCELLATION
Before you head to the airport, write down the flight numbers and times of flights you could alternatively take to get where you need to go. This is another good reason to fly in the morning as you have more options to fix problems throughout the day. In this case, don't only consider nonstop flights, search flights with connections, including ones in different regions of the country where weather is likely different. Also, consider nearby airports that may be a short car ride away from your desired destination.
WHEN DELAYED OR CANCELLED
If cancellation occurs, try to get help in various ways. First, by all means, get in line to speak with a customer service agent (in the airline's club lounges if you have access), but also do the following things simultaneously.
Check the airline's app or website, as you may have been automatically rebooked. Review any changes and attempt to rebook yourself if you can.
Call the airline using the preferred number that matches your status if you have access. Try using international call center numbers where you may experience a shorter hold time.
Reach out to the airline on social media. Agents are responsive on Twitter and Facebook and wait times for help can be shorter.
When you get help through whatever medium, don't just tell the representative your flight was canceled - ask them to consider your pre-planned solutions.