I just returned from a whirlwind weekend at Walt Disney World. And while the time spent at “the happiest place on Earth” was magical the getting there- and getting home- was not. It’s amazing that in one weekend I had more delays and missed connections than I have had in all my years of traveling… Combined.
But I did learn a few things… Here are my tips to get yourself back in the air quickly if your flight has been delayed or canceled.
- Always have both the toll free and the direct phone number for the airline(s) you are traveling on either in your cell phone or written down and placed in your carry on.
- If your flight is delayed long enough- due to weather or mechanical difficulties- that you are going to miss your connecting flight call the airline while you’re sitting on the plane.
- If you de-plane and people begin lining up at the gate to have flights re-routed (and you don’t have a phone) search for another open gate hosted by that airline and have that agent help you.
- Remember, it is the airline’s job to deliver you to your destination and if they can’t do it insist that they switch you to another carrier who can. Don’t be rude about it, but don’t let them tell you something can’t be done. Look at the departures board for flights with other airlines that may be better for your situation, point them out and ask to be switched to that carrier if space is available.
Invoking Rule 240
Rule 240 states that in the event of any flight delay or cancellation caused by anything other than weather, the airline would fly you on the next available flight — which does not mean their next available flight.
Now, this can be tricky to use as it’s not an official rule anymore but many of the legacy airlines (American, Delta, United) still have some or all of rule 240 in their contracts. Newer airlines don’t have this rule but some will follow it to retain customer satisfaction. After all, who are you more likely to fly with in the future? An airline that worked hard to get you to your destination on time- even if it wasn’t with them- or an airline who left you stranded without a “sorry for the inconvenience”?
The Tarmac Rule
It’s kind of fitting that the new tarmac rule goes into effect today. A terrific article at FOXNews.com helps explain this rule:
The rule requires U.S. carriers operating routes at large and medium hub U.S. airports to establish a contingency plan that provides passengers with adequate food and potable water (“adequate” being defined by the DOT as “a granola bar and bottle of water or similar snack) and any needed medical care “no later than two hours after the aircraft leaves the gate or touches down if the aircraft remains on the tarmac.”
My experience the weekend before this rule took effect was that the crew offered water and snacks well before 2 hours of sitting and, in the instance of de-planing, we were offered the option at about hour 2.
Sometimes it can’t be avoided… You will miss your connection and another won’t be available until the next day (especially if you are flying into a small airport). If that happens your bags will not be available to you so be sure you are prepared- just in case. Carry on anything you might need if you become stranded. I didn’t do this because I was headed home (what could happen?)- so when I missed my connection to Des Moines I had no toiletries, very little makeup and no extra clothes. While the little bag the airlines give you has your basics (see the Delta bag below) it doesn’t make up for having your own items.
Something else to remember: if you have to spend the night due to weather delays the airline is not required to pay for a hotel. Their job is to get you to your destination safely and if it’s not safe to fly it isn’t the airline’s fault. Some airlines will cover your hotel- though you may stand in a line with most of the passengers from your flight for a couple of hours to find out.
While sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting for my flight I spoke with a family from the UK who had their Florida holiday extended by 10 days due to the Icelandic volcano eruption. As we talked about their trip I commented that Europeans were much more likely to purchase travel insurance than Americans. What I found out was that many European airlines won’t let you fly without it.
Whether you agree with that line of thinking or not, travel insurance costs only pennies on the dollar and can help take the sting out of unexpected travel snafus.
I would love to hear your experiences and input on this topic! Please share in the comments!