Expert advice on reducing costs and delays while traveling

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Last weekend, Southwest Airlines’ flight cancellations – which included more than 2,000 flights between Friday and Sunday of the recent holiday weekend – has left many travelers wondering what the future of air travel might look like.

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The Federal Aviation Administration claimed the delays were due to “widespread extreme weather conditions, military training and limited personnel in an area of ​​the Jacksonville air traffic control center,” CNN reported. But Southwest appeared to be the only airline seriously affected by the situation, according to FlightAware. American Airlines and Spirit Airlines canceled just 2% of their flights, while more than 30% of Southwest’s flights were delayed or canceled over the three-day weekend.

As travelers to the southwest seek to recoup lost funds – from the cost of rental cars to canceled AirBNB reservations – worth being prepared for future cancellations and delays, whatever the cause.

“Contrary to common perception, airlines are not obligated to reimburse customers when flights are delayed or canceled on domestic routes,” said Marc Tonkin, travel editor at JTGTravel.com. “Domestic travel is only required by law to provide compensation if you are removed from an oversold aircraft. There are no government regulations, so each airline has their own rules for what they will do for delayed customers waiting at the airport. “

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With this in mind, it’s important to plan ahead and give yourself extra travel time for important events, be prepared for delays with a contingency plan, and have the means to cover accommodation. in the event of a flight delay or cancellation. It also doesn’t hurt to fight for repayment.

Travel experts have shared some of their top tips for avoiding financial hardship and other hassles while traveling, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

Get on the next best flight

When you first learn of a flight delay or cancellation, your number one priority should be to get to your destination as quickly as possible, in the most convenient way possible. For some travelers affected by cancellations from the Southwest, that meant hiring a car and driving.

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But it’s still worth trying to book another flight first, Tonkin said. “If your flight is canceled, most airlines will book the next available flight to your destination at no additional cost. If there is a substantial delay, check if another airline has seats available and ask the first airline if they would approve your ticket with the other carrier.

Check credit cards for travel insurance

In today’s turbulent times, it can be beneficial to invest in travel insurance before your trip. But before you spend the extra money, check to see if your credit cards offer this benefit as part of your deal.

“Most premium credit cards offer travel insurance that reimburses many non-refundable expenses such as hotel accommodation, meals and other essentials,” said Finn Cardiff, CEO of the Beach and Travel Blog Beachfix. “Of course, to qualify for the refund, you must have used the same credit card to pay for the trip.”

File the necessary reimbursement documents

If your flight was canceled rather than delayed, you might have a better chance of getting a full refund, but only if you ask. Jordan Bishop, founder of personal finance blog Yore Oyster, recommended calling the airline directly or filling out the necessary forms on their website.

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“Airlines will have detailed instructions for requesting refunds,” he said. “Most airlines have cancellation policies, but these will only apply if travelers actually call the airline and request a refund directly.”

Politely request a refund other than cash

If the airline refuses to reimburse the cost of your ticket, Bishop said to seek other forms of compensation. Reimbursement could take the form of reduced or free seats on a future flight, frequent flyer miles, or vouchers for hotels and restaurants near the airport. “[Airlines should offer] anything that will make the flyers satisfied and compensated for these issues, ”Bishop said.

If you have a customer service representative on the phone to discuss your issues, take a deep breath and remember to be kind. The delays are probably not their fault and you are more likely to receive good service if you are kind and respectful. “Be polite while standing up for your cause, and you may receive more than just monetary compensation,” Cardiff suggested.

Share your thoughts on social media

If you have done your best to receive some form of compensation, but have encountered resistance, it may be time to use the internet and voice your complaints.

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“Flyers should also try to tweet how upset they are on social media,” Bishop said. “This usually catches the airline’s attention quite quickly and makes them act faster than they normally would if only a few passengers made complaints.”

Document everything

Whether you are making phone calls, emailing, or tweeting, Bishop suggested being strategic and organized in your approach. “The best thing to do is keep calm and take notes,” he said. “Be sure to record all flight numbers, dates, times and names of everyone in customer service you speak with. This will make it easier to build your complaint and a better compensation claim than if you were just complaining at random.

Look for other ways to save money during the deadline

Regardless of your efforts, airlines may not agree to cover hotel stays or meals in the event of a delayed flight. Having a plan in place before you travel could help save you money. For example, have a plan for a place to stay, if necessary. It could mean surfing on the couch with a friend in the area, or using your credit card or hotel reward points to reserve a room at a discount. You can also ask local hotels for “stranded travelers” rates.

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Pack a few bottles of water and snacks in your luggage, or even non-perishable meals, to save money by avoiding expensive food at the airport. And make sure you have an extra outfit or two in your bag so you won’t be tempted by that comfy but expensive hoodie at the airport gift shop. If you are traveling with children, make sure you have toys that will help pass the time.

Expect the best, plan for the worst

The best way to minimize the stress of travel is to be proactive to get to your destination on time. “If your trip is to complete a potentially profitable business transaction, deliver a speech or conference, attend a family event, or connect to a cruise, you may want to give yourself a little more flexibility and select a flight earlier, ”Tonkin said. “In other words, flight cancellations are not uncommon, and defensive preparation is a good idea when time is of the essence. “

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Last updated: October 13, 2021

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Flight cancellations: expert advice to reduce travel costs and delays

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