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How To Cope With Flight Cancellations And Other Travel Setbacks

Traveling I can be a challenge this summer for most of us, no matter where we go. Between frequent flight cancellations, road closure due to natural disasters, it is hard not to get discouraged when you plan a trip. But as long as you are flexible, you can still have a fabulous vacation time.

As air travel opened up after a break during the pandemic, airlines and airports lifted their CoVid testing, and their mask policies, it seemed that things would be back to its pre-pandemic ways. But as we saw the prices of air travel sky-rocketing, while also hearing and reading about frequent flight cancellations, we opted for road trips instead.

The Importance Of Being Flexible While Traveling

We planned to visit Yellowstone the beginning of the summer of 2022. Even though normally we would have flown, this year, we decided to make it a driving vacation.

But while the idea of avoiding air travel proved to be a good one, we still had to cancel our trip. We booked our stay in Yellowstone starting the day they had to close it due to their unbelievable flooding. We heard about it, watched the road washed out, and the whole disaster area a few days before our scheduled departure. Naturally, we knew we’d have to cancel that trip. Our hotel beat us to it, and as soon as they did, we found out they had to close the park.

So, a few days before our planed leaving date, we desperately scrambled to replace the trip with another one. We still ended up with an alternative we all enjoyed; drove a little less, and still visited several new places.

At least we didn’t have airline tickets to cancel.

However, our new road trip had its own challenges. We drove through wild fire areas twice; we changed plans because of road closures… but still had a great trip. Because we were flexible enough to just say “oh, we can’t go in that direction? Well, where else can we go from here then? What else can we find in a different direction?”, and we found alternatives, leading us to visit places we didn’t even plan to, like Chimney Rock in Colorado, for example.

You Might Still Need To Deal With Flight Cancellations…

Vacation travel was one thing, but visiting family sometimes does require air travel. My daughter flew out from Texas to join us for this trip. While her flight to Phoenix was only slightly delayed, it was a different story on the way back. And I planned to fly back with her.

Our experience

We got to the airport on time because the app told us our flight was on time. Getting through security wasn’t bad, and we arrived to the gate with some time to spare. As soon as we sat down, we got a notification that our flight was delayed. It showed only a 30-minute delay though, so we didn’t think much about it. 30 minutes is nothing these days.

As the new boarding time approached, our next notification came about further delay of another two hours. We expected it, we’ve flown few times this year to know that most planes were getting delayed every day. Air travel these days seems to be like train travel was for me growing up in Romania in the 1980s… we always counted on all trains being delayed, at least half hour, so if they occasionally were on time, most people would miss them – but that rarely happened.

So, delays don’t really bother me much. Except I wished we knew sooner so we wouldn’t rush to the airport. With time to spare, my daughter offered to get us dinner at the airport. If Phoenix wasn’t home for us, we could’ve visited a few places nearby while waiting for a delayed flight. But since we live in Phoenix, and two hours didn’t seem too long, we were content to wait. We ate, read, and chatted, and before we knew it, the two extra hours passed and we were boarding.

After about a two-and-a-half-hour delay, we boarded the plane.

That wasn’t too bad, we decided. All passengers were on the plane, doors closed, seatbelts on, everything was ready for take-off. We texted our boarded, leaving, notifications to our family memebers and through we were on our way. Then the captain took the mike.

Instead of the usual getting ready to fly speech, we heard, “We are sorry, but they have bad weather in Austin, they closed down the airport. We don’t know when they will open it, so we don’t know how much longer we will be delayed. Instead of making you all wait in the plane though, we are asking you to de-board.” Is that even word, I wondered. No one moved, no one said a word. It took us all a while to sink in. The captain continued. “Since we don’t know when we will leave, we are asking you to take all of your belongings with you.”

So, we went through the whole process of leaving the plane. That was a short flight, I joked. The flight attendants insisted that nothing could remain on the plane. No one seemed upset though. People are getting used to this routine, I noticed.

Of course, bad weather happens; I remember one year they closed down the Phoenix airport because of the heat.

Another two hours passed before they announced our flight cancellation

However, we couldn’t leave the airport. They asked us to stay close to the gate, since they would announce when we were leaving as soon as they found out. “Get some dinner, but don’t go far from the gate,” they advised.

About an hour later they announced that they would have news about the flight status in another hour. At this point we’ve been at the airport for five hours. In five hours we could’ve done a whole lot near the Phoenix airport.

The next announcement came as scheduled. however, the message was “the flight is cancelled”.


If you can, stay on that line to rebook right away. We made the mistake of leaving.

My first though was, my daughter had to call out work for the next day. However, the day after was her day off anyway, so that made us more flexible. So, instead of standing on the long line to try to re-book, I asked the gate agent if we could do it ourselves. “Yes, if you have the app, you can do it yourself”, she assured me. “You’ll have multiple choices showing up in your app, just pick the flight you want.”

Theoretically, what she said should have worked. We saw all the choices – for the next day we only had flights with layovers, so we chose a direct flight two days later; we clicked on it and confirmed.

Except, that as soon as it confirmed, we were also confirmed on two other, different flights, with layovers, each. Obviously, a glitch, so we waited for it to resolve. At this point, we were booked on two flights out, though neither let us confirm.

Eventually, only the flights we didn’t want showed up, but gave us a choice to either confirm or choose another flight. Except the “choose another flight” link wasn’t working, and we ended up confirmed on separate flights, one with layover of four hours, the other with an overnight layover. They would have taken either 14 or 23 hours to get to our destination, a destination that is normally only a 2.5-hour direct flight. We could’ve drove the distance in 14 hours.

You actually need to talk to an agent to get on a flight you want

Obviously, we didn’t want to spend so much time in airports. So, we called. And waited. And waited some more. Left our number for them to call back. Then waited some more.

Eventually, we got in contact with an agent, who was able to change my daughter’s flight to the one we originally chose. However, she couldn’t help with mine, since I booked my flight on points. So she transferred us to another agent. And the waiting game resumed. We were on a waiting call at least ten hours that day. In the end, I still couldn’t get in touch with anyone who could help me.

In the meantime the flight I was re-booked on left, without me. I was not going to fly around the world for a short trip. I just resolved that I lost my points, and decided to cancel my rewards card.

In the meantime, I re-booked my trip with a different airline, at a later date. Hope that one will work out.

What to do when dealing with a flight cancellation on American Airlines

Honestly, I don’t know if I can give any advice on this. Everyone does things differently, depending on how important it is to get to your destination.

However, I have a few suggestions, based on my own experience.

Don’t try to do it yourself

If it’s important that you get to your destination soon, don’t leave the airport until you re-book with an agent.

It seems easy to re-book your fight yourself, especially if you have the app. Theoretically, it should work. In practice, however, it doesn’t. In my case, I booked a flight, it looked like I was on it, but it changed and showed me on another flight, with two layovers. One I did not want to be on.

If you are in no rush, wait a few hours until everything settles, and call the airline

Although you will need to wait on the call for several hours – or leave your number and stay close to make sure you pick up when they call you back, if you actually talk to someone, they can get you on the flight you want, or something you don’t mind.

That is, if you didn’t book on points.

If you booked on points, as far as I can tell, you don’t have many options

Unfortunately, if you booked your flight on points, they can’t help you right away. You need to deal with the rewards program, regardless of the problem. Which means… I don’t really know what it means when you actually get in touch with someone. We called and stayed on line for over five hours, called again from a few different phones, but had no luck talking to one single person.

Eventually, I gave up on my points. It eventually showed a notice that my points would be available for another flight, but I never saw the original count number back to what it was. When I look at the numbers, they seem lost. I will eventually have to call and talk to someone, or just forget it and cancel my reward card. At this point, I decided that I will cancel my rewards card, and try to avoid flying with American in the future.

But other airlines might have the same issues, so, I’ll wait for now and see how I feel in another few weeks.

Regardless how it gets solved, try not to get too frustrated. Take the opportunity to explore the city you get stranded in

Easier said than done, but getting frustrated and angry doesn’t help. Take a moment to adjust to the new idea, and try to make the best of the situation.

For example, if you get stranded in Phoenix, you’ll find plenty of things to do near the airport, so walk away from the airport and enjoy a new city.

If you are still at home, change your plans and enjoy another day at home. Yes, you probably need to cancel hotels and maybe rental cars, or move dates around. And it can often be frustrating. However, flight cancellations are something we all need to deal with.

It is often out of anyone’s control, like in the case of weather-related issues. Flight crew shortages all airlines are dealign with right now add to the problem, since they don’t have enough people to help deal with unexpected situations.

Flight cancellations tend to happen often these days, so try to keep your sense of humor, stay flexible, and make the best of the situation.

Are There Any Ways To Avoid Flight Cancellations?

I don’t know if anyone can really avoid flight cancellations. But I read that getting on a morning flight is a good idea. In the morning, fewer flights are in the air, so airports are not yet dealing with delays. And if your flight gets canceled, you have more opportunities to re-book on the same day.

Our cancelled flight was in the afternoon. In most places, that’s when thunderstorms develop, and most airports are already dealing with lots of flights, some of them delayed.

So, I booked our next flight for early morning. It was the first flight of the day, leaving just after 5 am. We had the best flight experience in years, with no delays at all, fast boarding (it helped the we didn’t have a full flight), and pleasant crew.

Though the very early morning hours, and using Southwest, instead of American most likely also made a difference, my daughter’s 9 am flight on American was not delayed much, either. So, at least our experience proves the theory is correct: catch an early flight when possible.

But in the end, just try to make the best of any situation. If you are flexible, and are able to laugh it off, it will definitely be easier to deal not only with flight cancellations, but with any travel delays or changes.

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