What to do if Your Flight is Canceled: Tips to Work with Airlines and Travel Insurance

woman with canceled flight looks at plane stuck on runway in snow

You might never have had your flight canceled, but if and when it does happen, that lack of experience is bound to result in a thousand and one questions running through your head: How am I going to get to where I need to go? Am I stranded? And—perhaps most importantly—how much is this going to cost?

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2% of U.S. flights were canceled over the past couple years. So, if you take enough flights, odds are you’ll have to deal with a cancellation at some point.

Luckily, research and other learning from people’s experiences can help you feel confident in case a flight cancellation happens.

Also read: How Travel Insurance can Help When You Fly

Flight canceled? Here’s what to do:

1. Talk to your airline

You’re almost certain to see a pretty big queue of disgruntled passengers at the customer service desk. You can join it if you like—but you can always just give the airline a call from the comfort of the nearest coffeeshop.

Either way, be firm, but nice. Especially if the cancellation was due to reasons outside of the airline’s control, such as severe weather (if so, you can skip to section 3). If that’s the case, they aren’t legally obliged to help you at all, so making friends could really pay off.

2. Claim what you’re entitled to from the airline

If the airline caused your flight to be canceled or delayed, you basically have two options:

a. Reroute

In the U.S., there is no national law that regulates a customer’s rights when the airline cancels a flight. So, all rights come from the contracts tied to the airline ticket you purchased, and those can be different from carrier to carrier.

If you go for this option, then the airline might arrange a replacement flight to the same destination. This includes any connecting flights you might have, as long as they’re with the same airline. If they’re with a different airline, once again, be nice—they aren’t legally obliged to help you here, either. If they won’t, skip to step 3.

b. Refund

If you try for a refund, bear in mind that the airline doesn’t have to offer you any further assistance. In other words, you’ll be on your own, and you’ll need to book your own flight to your destination.

3. Call your travel insurance company

If assistance from the airline isn’t forthcoming in either of these scenarios, you’ll want to call your travel insurance provider as soon as possible. Add their number to your phone’s contacts before you travel so you’ve got it handy. You won’t be entitled to compensation, but you should still be able to claim for new flights or reimbursement and any reasonable food and accommodation expenses (be sure to keep your receipts). To find out exactly what you can and can’t claim, check the terms and conditions of your travel insurance plan.

Once you’ve called your insurer and taken note of any further instructions they might have, it’s time to book a new flight and any accommodation you might need while you wait.

If you get a travel insurance plan from Generali Global Assistance, it includes coverages that can help if your flight is canceled, like Trip Interruption and Travel Delay, plus a 24/7 Travel Assistance hotline that can help you navigate through tough travel situations and make new arrangements.

Also, airlines tend to make clear in their contracts that they are not responsible for consequential damages such as missed hotel reservations, missed tour groups or other losses you might incur as a result of delayed or canceled travel. With a Generali travel insurance plan, the Trip Interruption coverage can come in handy in this case by reimbursing you for travel costs and/or getting you back on your trip.

4. Relax

Whatever the right solution, try to proceed with a smile—dwelling on your delay won’t get you there any faster. So, relax, look at your options for dealing with the canceled flight, and take one thing at a time. You’ll soon be on your way.

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Travel insurance can help if your flight is canceled
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