ATLANTA — Frustrations arose this weekend at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after hundreds of Jet Blue flights were canceled or delayed. The world’s busiest airport said to help cope with travel disruptions it is adjusting its summer schedule.
Expedia travel expert Christie Hudson said those nightmares aren’t going away anytime soon, but offered tips to make the situation less stressful for travellers.
Read the fine print
Travelers should learn about their airline’s policies and what they might be entitled to if a flight is canceled or delayed, Hudson advised — noting that policies may vary by ticket.
“So generally airlines have to reimburse you if they’re the ones canceling your flight and they can’t accommodate you within a reasonable time,” she said.
However, Hudson said the phrase “reasonable time” can vary.
“For some, that may mean they have to get you on another flight within two to six hours,” she said. “But for others, they may have up to 24 hours before they really need to refund you.”
She added that theft insurance could be really helpful but only covers specific scenarios and advises reading the fine print of those plans as well.
“It will only cover things if someone gets really sick, for example, and is hospitalized. So those are extreme situations,” she said.
In the wake of COVID and pandemic-related restrictions, she said to seek out insurance plans under the “cancel for any reason” directive for the utmost peace of mind.
Know your “flight rights”
In the event of a delay or cancellation, airlines will do their best to get customers on the next available flight, but that can cause problems, Hudson said. That’s why she suggests familiarizing yourself with the Passengers’ Bill of Rights or “Fly Rights”.
“The US Department of Transportation enforces this right for passengers to be reimbursed if the airline cancels their flight and does not provide them with another reasonable alternative,” she said.
Hudson said it would take a bit of research to figure out what a traveler is entitled to, but research could be helpful in the face of a stressful cancellation.
“Find out what your rights are and that will help you make your decision about whether to wait or try to book yourself again,” she said.
Talk to the agents at the airport
Amid flight disruptions, travelers are quick to call their airline or tour operator — and Hudson said that may not be the best solution.
“The best thing to do is try to speak to the agents at the airport,” she said.
Hudson said she understands people’s rush to resolve their flight issues, but it actually contributes to long customer wait times.
“My advice to travelers, if you’re already at the airport and dealing with something like this, your best bet (is) really to work with the gate agents to get you accommodated on the next possible flight,” she said. .
Show up for your flight
Hudson said the worst thing travelers can do is not show up for their flight, even if it’s delayed or canceled.
“The worst thing you can do is not show up for your flight, which means you’re not there to check in when you’re supposed to board your flight,” she said.
Some travelers may get impatient and decide to fly home, book another flight, or rent a car and start driving, which is understandable given the circumstances. However, the choice could have ripple effects.
“If you don’t show up, you essentially lose the value of your flight and then it becomes very difficult to claim a refund at a later date,” she said.
Be careful what you book
Summer is one of the peak seasons for travel, and Hudson advises travelers to be wary of the type of flight they book.
Besides planning for delays and arriving at the airport early, she said travelers should also consider the time of their flight.
“Also when you book, maybe avoid a lot of layovers and select non-stop flights,” she said. “You’re just less likely to experience disruptions if you’re going nonstop to your destination.”
Hudson also recommends avoiding booking the last flight of the day.
“So if your flight is canceled you have no other choice until the next morning,” she said. “So maybe aim for a flight that departs earlier in the day so that there are some back-up options if something happens.”