The Very First Thing You Should Do If Your Flight Gets Canceled

Traveling comes with a level of uncertainty. Even with the most specific itinerary in place, things don't always go as planned. Flights are especially precarious, with many factors beyond your personal control. While it is always best practice to give yourself plenty of time to go through airport security and arrive at your gate, you can't do much but wait until your flight is ready.

But what if your flight is never ready and has been canceled? While delays can range from slight annoyances to catastrophes for trying to get to connecting flights on time, we can all agree that canceled flights are their own category of unfortunate trip karma. You may feel powerless when you learn that your flight has been canceled. But whether your flight has been canceled due to weather or unforeseen other circumstances, you still have agency to make the most of your trip and get to your destination.

Talk to an agent as soon as you can

Many airlines' policies rebook passengers for the next possible flights, according to U.S. News and Word Report. However, the airline will not know your situation simply because your flight has been delayed. The onus is on you, the passenger, to alert an airline agent so they can reschedule you for the next possible flight to your destination. Once your flight has been delayed, stand in line to speak with an airline agent near your gate. You can even be on the phone with the airline as you wait to save time. Airlines typically refund canceled flights for no additional cost, but it can be difficult to get on the very next flight leaving from that airport. You may have to be flexible with the rest of the plans on your itinerary as you wait for an open seat to claim.

The Department of Transportation is also working to strengthen the protections of travelers when their flights get canceled. Most airline policies adhere to the DOT's requirement to fully refund passengers for cancellations or "significant delays," but the process for getting that refund is complicated and can take a while. While refunds usually only cover the cost of your flight, they can put some valuable spending money back in your pocket to compensate for your lost time.