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What Should I Do If My Flight Is Canceled?

traveling looking at departures
Allianz - traveler looking at departures

You planned this trip six months ago. You packed your suitcase a week in advance. You arrived at the airport three hours early. But no amount of planning could prevent this last-minute surprise: Your flight is canceled. Now what?

Don’t just wait! Take action. With the help of your travel insurance, you can choose your best option: getting on another flight, making alternative travel arrangements, or canceling the trip and getting a refund.

Here’s our best advice for dealing with a flight cancellation.

Prepare for a flight cancellation before you even pack your suitcase.

It’s not negative thinking, just smart planning!

Book your flight directly with the airline, if possible, advises Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. If you need to change travel plans because of a canceled flight, it’s easier to deal with the airline than a third-party travel booking site.1

Look at your airline’s flight schedule to see what your options are in case of a cancellation. If there are six or seven flights daily to your destination, then you may not have to wait too long to get on a later flight. If your airline only flies there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that’s a different story.

Fly in the morning, if possible. That way, you avoid domino-effect flight delays and cancellations caused by problems with other flights, as well as afternoon storms. You can see current U.S. flight cancellations by airport on the MiseryMap from FlightAware.

Sign up for flight delay/cancellation notifications. Get your airline’s app, or download the free Allyz® TravelSmart app, which provides real-time flight updates for multiple airlines in addition to helping you manage your travel insurance plan.

Buy travel insurance. A travel protection plan with trip cancellation, trip interruption and travel delay benefits can make a flight cancellation so much easier to deal with. We’ll give you some examples in a minute — but right now, you should get a quote and buy a plan, if you haven’t already.

Once your flight is canceled, rebook as quickly as you can.

Let’s say you’re flying on an Airbus A320 that seats 150 passengers. When your flight gets canceled, you may be fighting with 149 other travelers for seats on the next available plane. If you’re in a hurry, don’t just sit back and wait for the airline to rebook you. Instead, you can:

  • Log onto the airline’s website or app and see if you can choose a new flight.
  • Go to the airport kiosk.
  • Wait in line at the airline’s airport help desk.
  • Head to your airline’s club lounge, if you have access through a credit card or loyalty program, and ask the agent there for help.2
  • Call the airline directly, but be prepared for long hold times. Some travel experts suggest calling the international number, even if you have to pay extra for the call, because you might get quicker service.

If you’re speaking with an airline employee, whether on the phone or in person, never be aggressive or rude. If you’re calm and courteous, you’re more likely to get the outcome you want.

Having trouble getting a new flight? Contact 24-hour assistance. Our travel experts can help you identify your best options, which may include rebooking your flight on a different airline or mode of travel.

If you can’t fly until the next day, book your accommodations right away.

Remember those 149 other passengers from the canceled flight? They’re your competition for hotel rooms, too. So if you’ll be staying at your destination overnight, go ahead and reserve a room as soon as you can.

The good news is that your stay can be covered by travel delay benefits, up to the limit specified in your plan. Your eligible expenses can be reimbursed, too. Dinner during the delay? Sure. Coffee and breakfast before your new morning flight? Yes. The cab ride to the airport? That, too! You also can be reimbursed for prepaid trip expenses that you didn’t get to use because of the delay.

Know your flight cancellation compensation rights.

“Don’t I get compensation for a canceled flight?” you might ask. Not necessarily. U.S. consumer protection laws say airline customers are entitled to a refund of their airfare and optional service fees if the airline cancels a flight, regardless of the reason, and the customer chooses not to travel.

Airlines often will give you that refund in the form of a travel credit or voucher, but it’s possible to push back and ask for a refund of your payment instead.3 The airline is not required to give you any additional compensation, whether cash or vouchers for meals, hotel stays or flights.

You may still receive some kind of compensation, however, depending on your circumstances. Individual airlines have their own policies for flight cancellation compensation. And if your canceled flight took place within, to or from Europe, you may be eligible to receive up to 600 euros (depending on the length of the flight and the timing of the cancellation).

Did you know that your Allianz Travel Insurance plan can compensate you for a covered flight delay? If your plan includes SmartBenefits®, you can opt to receive a fixed inconvenience payment of $100 per insured person, per day. You don’t need to provide any receipts — just proof of a covered travel delay.

Stay open to alternatives — but know your breaking point.

Once your flight is canceled, you may discover that you have no good travel options. To get to your destination, you might have to take a connecting flight that adds 10 hours to your travel time. Or you might have to drive or take a train to a different city in order to catch the flight you need.

When facing a situation like this, you’ll have to make a decision (and make it fast). Is it even worth taking the trip? Or should you call the whole thing off?

If you don’t have travel insurance, you’ll have to pay for any alternative transportation or additional flights yourself. If you do have travel insurance, your plan may reimburse you for the cost of reasonable alternative transportation to your destination, minus any refunds the airline provides.

If you haven’t yet begun your trip and your travel carrier cannot get you to your planned destination for at least 24 hours from your originally scheduled arrival time due to severe weather, a natural disaster, a strike or an FAA mandate, then that can be a covered reason for canceling the whole trip. Your trip cancellation benefits can then reimburse you for your non-refundable trip costs.

If you’ve already departed and you miss at least 50% of the length of your trip due to a travel carrier delay, your trip interruption benefits can reimburse you for unused, nonrefundable trip costs.

If you don’t know what to do, call 24-hour assistance.

For some travelers, a flight cancellation just means getting a late start on their vacation. For others, however, it can be much more serious. What if you’re traveling to see your mom before a major surgery? Or you’re going to miss your son’s college graduation? Or you’re delayed on the way to your cruise embarkation, so the ship will leave without you?

We’re here to help. Contact 24-hour assistance by phone or with the Allyz® TravelSmart app. Our assistance team can figure out the best way to get you where you need to be, as quickly as possible. Assistance is included with every Allianz Travel Insurance plan — which is just one more reason to buy travel protection now for your next trip.

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