It’s been a difficult slog for some air travellers here during the Christmas rush. In the event that my flight is cancelled or delayed, what do I need to do?

As of 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, more than 2,800 flights had been cancelled or delayed due to an increase in Covid cases around the world. According to FlightAware, roughly 1,000 of those were within, into, or out of the United States.

That’s just for Tuesday. Airlines have been cancelling and delaying thousands of flights since Thursday, December 23rd, citing an increase in Omicron variant cases.

What if you happen to be one of the unlucky passengers? Here are some pointers to assist travellers in navigating the system when flights are cancelled or delayed:

As bad as it is to learn that your flight has been delayed or, worse, cancelled or delayed, it is preferable to learn this from the comfort of your own home or a hotel room and make new arrangements from there.

“Before you leave for the airport, check the status of your flight.” “The majority of these notifications do not occur at the last minute,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Save yourself the hassle of driving to the airport.”
In an interview with CNN Travel on Monday, Keyes said that when you buy your ticket, you should sign up for free text alerts on flight status. You should also get the app from your carrier.

You can also directly enter your airline and flight number into a Google search bar to get the status. This is also useful for friends or family who are waiting to pick you up.

Keyes also recommended visiting the website FlightAware to monitor larger flight trends across the country.

On Monday, December 27, a flight information display system displays departure times at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.

Delays and cancellations can occur after you have arrived at the airport. What should you do once the bad news has been delivered?

Keyes advised you to get to the airline agents’ desk as soon as possible – and prepare to multitask while you’re there.

The word “quick” is important here. “Whoever arrives first will make a difference.” It’s a first-come, first-served basis. “Getting close to the desk can pay off,” Keyes says.

While you’re waiting, call your carrier. Depending on where you are in line, calling a call centre may be faster. “Whatever happens first, that’s fantastic,” he said.

Calls to US domestic numbers may have extremely long hold times. Instead, Keyes suggested that you try an international call centre for your carrier.

“Most US-based travellers do not consider calling Delta’s Canadian help line.” You may be able to speak with an agent much more quickly. They are all capable of handling your reservations in the same manner.”

According to American Airlines, you can also use a self-service kiosk. “To view your updated trip details, scan your boarding pass or enter your record locator.” You can also change your flight and print new boarding passes from there.”

On Monday, December 27, passengers wait in line to check in for their flights at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia.

How you approach dealing with an agent, whether in person or over the phone, can make a big difference. It all begins with attitude.

According to Keyes, “honey attracts more flies than vinegar.” “Look at it from the airline agents’ point of view. They’ve had to deal with irate customers since the pandemic began. The agent is the person best suited to assist you.

“Asking nicely and sympathetically is far more likely to yield the desired result than being a jerk about it.”

When it’s your turn to speak with an agent about making new arrangements, he has another piece of advice: “Come prepared to offer your own options already.” Doing your own research is extremely beneficial.”

If you’ve already looked up new routes and possible suggestions while you’ve been waiting, your agent can help you out. Prepare to explain your desires.

If you booked through Expedia or another third-party site, you’ll have to deal with them if your reservation is cancelled or delayed.

If the prices are the same, Keyes recommends booking directly with the airline. When you book through a third party, “it makes it much more complicated with multiple sets of policies” if something goes wrong.

If possible, avoid layovers when booking, according to US PIRG, a consumer advocacy group. The more times you stop, the more likely something will go wrong.

The group agrees with Keyes’ advice to be nice and polite to agents, but adds that consumers should be persistent in trying to resolve the situation satisfactorily.

On Monday, December 27, a woman and her child wait for their flight alongside another traveller at Miami International Airport.

What should you do if it appears that you will not be able to fly out until the next day and you are not in your home city?

“Ask the airline to book you a hotel room or give you a hotel voucher.” They could do it, or they could not. “It’s not mandated by law,” Keyes explained.

They’re less likely to do it if the problem is weather-related than if it’s a mechanical issue with the plane or a staffing issue, he says.

Learn about policies. Delta Air Lines, for example, says it will provide a hotel voucher in some cases if travel is disrupted for more than four hours after the scheduled departure time and the delay occurs between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Keyes advised, “Whatever you do, at least ask.” A voucher for hotels, as well as ground transportation and meals, is unlikely to be offered.

You should also look up the information on your credit card. According to Keyes, your card may include passenger protections such as free hotel rooms if you become stranded and may even cover your food and taxi to the hotel. Look into what you need to do in order to be reimbursed.

If your flight is cancelled or delayed, you should consider whether to stay at the airport. Depending on your personal circumstances, hunkering down for five or six hours may be more convenient than travelling to and from a hotel. Also, Keyes advised, check to see if the airport has a hotel.

If possible, The Points Guy recommends trying to get into an airport lounge where you can recharge your phone and rest more easily.

“If you have a flight scheduled in the next week and are concerned about Omicron, airlines are offering free flight changes,” Keyes said. “If you want to change your travel dates, you can do so without penalty.”

He also mentioned that if the new travel dates are less expensive, you can receive a travel credit. (On the other hand, if the flight is more expensive, you’ll pay more.)

“By rescheduling a flight from the holidays to February, you reduce your chances of encountering this Omicron situation.” You might be able to save a few hundred dollars.”

According to the US Department of Transportation, you are entitled to a refund of your ticket cost if your flight is cancelled or delayed” and you choose not to travel.

This is the policy regardless of the reason for the flight is cancelled or delayed.

“It has not specifically defined what constitutes a’significant delay,'” according to the DOT website. Many factors influence whether you are entitled to a refund, including the length of the delay, the length of the flight, and your specific circumstances. On a case-by-case basis, DOT determines whether you are entitled to a refund following a significant delay.”