What To Do When Your Flight Is Cancelled
Last Updated: April 24, 2021

What To Do When Your Flight Is Cancelled – All The Options

Traveling in itself can already be stressful. Getting there on time, finding the right spots, making sure you have everything with you – there will always be a snag somewhere. However, the biggest setback is something many travellers dread – flight cancellations.

What do when flight is cancelled

There are many reasons for flight cancellations or delays, most of them related to passenger safety. However, they don’t make up for the potential nightmare that follows a flight cancellation. When it does happen, people are often thrown into panic mainly because they don’t know what to do. Do airlines owe you anything? Can you get your money back? What happens to transfers?

Don’t panic. There are several things you should know in the event of flight cancellations. The best thing is for you to be prepared. A flight cancellation is a big hassle, but it doesn’t have to be a complete disaster.

Know before you go

Preparation is key. The best way to keep yourself from going into a frenzy is already doing the research before hand. Before you even head to the airport, here are some things you should already know by then:

Know your passenger rights

In the US, there are no federal laws that require airlines to compensate passengers for delays or cancellations. However, each airline has its own policies to cover for these inconveniences. Policies are even clearer if it’s at the fault of the airline.

How would you know?

Check your airline’s customer agreement or contract of carriage for specific policies related to cancellations and delays. Typically, airlines will provide either a refund, a rebooking, or accommodations. However, different situations call for different levels of compensation, so better check out their policies and avoid throwing a fit at the airport.

In Europe, fortunately, European Union regulations require airlines to provide meals, refreshments, and accommodations if necessary, given that the cancellation is the airlines’ fault. They are also required to refund the flight cost within seven days of cancellation.

In case of delays, airlines are also required to compensate the passenger anywhere between 250 to 600 euros if the flight arrives three hours after the estimated time of arrival.

While this is good news for many passengers, do remember that these only apply if and only if the cancellation or delay is at the fault of the airline. If it’s due to weather or other factors, go back to your airline’s policies.

Check for insurance coverage

If you were responsible enough to get travel insurance to cover your trip, flight cancellations are always included in the benefits. As soon as you find out about your cancellation, contact your insurance provider and provide the necessary details.

For most people, travel insurance is not always a priority. However, many international credit cards nowadays have built-in travel benefits if you booked the flights through their card. More importantly, these benefits also cover for trip delays or cancellations due to weather or other unpredictable factors, not just the airlines’ fault.

Whichever insurance benefit you’ll take, make sure you keep your boarding pass and travel documents to submit to your insurance provider.

Download the right tools

There are many tools right now that can give you an easier time when you travel. First app you should download is of the airline you’re traveling with. There are many functionalities within these apps, including flight status information and rebooking options.

You can also download a flight tracking app like FlightAware, and important information like AirHelp so you can check quickly if you’re eligible to receive compensation or not.

At the gates

So you’ve done your homework and you more or less know what you can get out of a flight cancellation. When it actually happens, there are still some ways to salvage your trip.

Call the hotline

Once a cancellation is announced, passengers all rush to the airport staff at the gates. While you do the same and stand in line, already call the airline hotline and go through your options there. Chances are, someone from the hotline will pick-up before you get to the staff at the gates.

When you have their attention, whether it’s through the hotline or directly with the airport staff, here are the things you should ask about:

  • Meal and hotel credits – these vary from airline to airline. Again, not all airlines are required to do this, and not all airlines will, but if you know your rights and policies, then you’ll know what to ask for
  • Rebooking – ask to be rebooked to another flight, or even another airline. While they are not obligated to use another airline to find you a different flight, they might be able to do so if you are firm and polite


When you finally get in touch with a hotline agent or an airport staff, they will throw many things at you to keep the line moving. You’ll be surprised to know how accommodating airlines can be with your complaints, so make sure you negotiate to get what you ask for. Ask for specific rebooking dates, location for hotels, vouchers and coupons, and even membership to loyalty clubs.

An important thing to remember, however, is keeping your cool. You need to be very firm and let them know that you are there to get what you’re due, but you have to be polite. A little kindness goes a long way, and it will be easier to give favors to a kind person than to a yelling one.

When you have an agreement, do not sign anything that asks you to waive your rights. This will invalidate you from claiming for further compensation in the future. Just sign on anything that confirms your agreement with the airline.

Use the power of social media

Many airlines monitor their Twitter or Facebook feeds. Social media has become such a powerful tool that airlines are usually sensitive to complaints and negative comments posted on their online presence. If you can’t reach the hotline or get to an airport staff, social media is a good way to get their attention.

Don’t be tempted to rant on social media, though. While it can be appropriate to detail your issues, a certain level of respect and politeness is still expected. If you result to petty insults and uncontrolled outbursts, this reflects poorly more on you than the airline.

Deal with connecting flights

If your connecting flight is within the same airline, the airline will make arrangements for you. They can rebook on another connecting flight. However, if you booked on several airlines, there is no way you will be refunded for the connecting flight. Consider this a loss and book a different flight once you’ve finalized your new travel plans.

On this note, book connecting flights within the same airline as much as possible. This provides a more seamless experience, especially when the unexpected happens.

Moving on

Getting through a flight cancellation can be very stressful, but there will always be an end to the ordeal. Once you’ve secured whatever benefit or compensation you have at your disposal, there are still some things you need to keep in mind to make sure you’re covered.

Keep all your documents

The only way to make sure that you get the compensation you’re due is to present your original travel documents. If you lose or misplace them and are unable to present any proof of your cancelled flight, then the airline has no choice but to refuse your requests.

This is the same when it comes to claiming for benefits from insurance providers. Until you’ve completed your journey and gotten any kind of compensation for the cancellation, hold on to all of your travel documents and receipts. This also includes any and all communications from the airline announcing the cancellation of the flight.

File your claim

It’s important to remember that different locations around the world have different rules and regulations. Policies governing compensation will vary from country to country. A quick way to know if you are entitled to compensation is to check AirHelp. Downloading their app can also help you check in real time while you’re still at the gates.

Once you’ve confirmed that you can file for a claim, gather all proof of delay or cancellations. This includes any and all communication from the airlines announcing the delay or cancellation, and even photos at the gates. Also include all receipts that cost you money such as hotel accommodations or transportation.

You can file your claim directly with the airline via e-mail. You can also use AirHelp to file a claim on your behalf. Going through AirHelp will be faster and easier, and their team can tell you exactly what each airline will require.

If you prefer to write your claim to the airline yourself, make sure you include the following information:

  • Detailed list of expenses incurred, including supporting receipts
  • If applicable, specific regulation and article number covering the right to compensation
  • An excerpt of the airline policy covering the right to compensation
  • Expectation for payment within 7 to 14 days

Here’s a quick guide of the regulations and coverage for you to file your claim:

Keep traveling

Don’t let these travel hiccups get you down. It’s not very often that cancellations and extraordinary delays happen. However, it’s good to know what to do when they do happen. Whatever the reason for any flight cancellation, know that you still have many days of good travels ahead. A minor setback shouldn’t turn your travel plans into a nightmare.


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About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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