6 things that can help when flights get canceled or delayed

Tip No. 1: Give your contact info to the airline.

ByABC News
September 3, 2017, 4:39 AM
A frustrated businesswoman stands at the check-in counter in an airport, in this undated photo.
A frustrated businesswoman stands at the check-in counter in an airport, in this undated photo.
Getty Images/Uppercut RF

— -- This is the time of year I get a lot of questions about delayed and cancelled flights. It's mainly due to hurricanes, tropical storms and other severe weather.

It won’t be long before winter kicks in, too. Still, delays and cancellations can happen year-round too due to something as simple as a mechanical snafu on a plane.

The good news is there are six things travelers can do to get them on their way again, sooner rather than later. Let’s break it down between pre-trip preparation and what can be done in the midst of a delay or cancellation.

Three things to do to prepare

1. Maintain contact

A lot of us skip this step when booking flights; if that’s you and you’ve got a trip coming up, go back to your itinerary now and add your contact information. Be sure to include both a mobile phone number and email address, so the airline can notify you about any delays and cancellations. On the flip side, be sure you have the airline’s contact information on your phone and if you don’t follow the carrier on Twitter, now is the time to start.

2. Check electronics

Be sure your phone and other gadgets are fully charged and your charger cord is on your person before you get to the airport, for two reason: You may have to contact the airline by phone to help you with your delay/cancellation problems, and, also because you could be sitting in the airport for quite a while. Being able to watch a movie (or get some work done) will help pass the time.

3. Don’t check a big bag

Packing light by using a carry-on is smart on so many levels; you avoid the checked-bag fee and exit the airport faster (no hanging around the baggage carousel for you). But it also makes a traveler more flexible and agile which can be very helpful during delays and cancellations. Example: During the chaos of trying to get passengers on their way, gate agents have been known to say things like, "There’s one last empty seat on a plane at Gate 33 but it leaves in two minutes; hurry if you want it!" You want it so you run, secure in the knowledge that if you make it, your carry-on will too.

Three things to do in the midst of delays/cancellations

1. Get in touch with the airline

Simple, you just get in line to speak to the gate agent, right? Right. But do this, too.

- Call the airline: While in line, get on the phone; you may get to talk to a live person on your cell before you can speak to a rep at the airport. Tip: If you are an elite miles member, use your special hotline number.

- Go on Twitter: You remembered to follow your airline, right? Good because they hate being embarrassed on social media and most carriers respond quickly to tweets. But get in line and call, too, because you never know which will be fastest.

2. Stick around the gate area

Airlines are doing a better job of keeping us informed but they aren’t perfect. A good example is a gate announcement that there will be a two-hour delay. Don’t go far because, who knows, the problem could be fixed in 30 minutes and if you’re not there, they plane may leave without you (it’s happened). Avoid heading off to a long, leisurely lunch in favor of grabbing more portable edibles that can be brought back to the gate.

3. Do your own research

You do research by comparing fares when buying tickets so just do a little more in the event of delays and cancellations; it’ll be worth it especially if you have to get to your destination. Example: Get out your phone and look at flights on competing airlines that are going to your destination; then show this to the gate agent (or tell the airline rep on the phone) because seeing these options may help them get you sorted and on your way more quickly. Another way to help with research works for those who have more than one airport nearby (Dallas-Ft. Worth and Love Field, for example, or Los Angeles International and Burbank). If you can’t get a flight out of one airport, you may be able to fly out of another, assuming you have time to get there. Help the airline help you.

One last thought: Some things are not fixable, no matter how hard you try. So pull out your charger cord, plug in the phone and see if losing yourself in a movie for a couple of hours helps. And safe travels.