For the number of times, I’ve flown, I’ve had a rather limited selection of mishaps on the road. I always show up early to my flights, I cross my t’s and dot my i’s constantly. It’s part of my DNA and though it’s a frequent joke that I am over-prepared, it has paid off countless times. And then there are things that happen when you travel that are completely out of your control — like this situation…
This past month I had my first major travel interruption… The day before I was departing for a three-plus week trip in Europe, the airline that I had two connecting flights with was on the brink of declaring bankruptcy. This was a first for me and knew I needed to act quick as my schedule was tight.
I had booked my flight(s) months in advance (as I always do) and the week of travel, Adria Airways grounded all flights for 6 days as it was about to go bankrupt. After doing a bit of research, it was easy to see the airline was not making a comeback. After calling my friend Carly from 52 Cities (she’s an expert on point travel) I rebooked my flights (coming out of pocket an additional $800 to the original $650 itinerary.) It was pricey but knew there were ways to get my original money back + possible compensation for the cancellation.
Here’s what I did once my flights were officially canceled and a few tips for how to handle these kinds of situations when traveling.
How to Handle an Airline Cancellation
Know your rights
Every country and airline has different rights. As a passenger, you’re entitled to these so be sure to visit your airline’s website to see in accordance with this. This was the first thing I did — check to see what am I entitled to. In Europe, you’re entitled to payment for delay or cancellation, this is one thing to keep in mind. Travis and I once banked $750 each for a late flight out of Venice, Italy.
Have Travel Insurance
The second immediate thing that I did was book travel insurance. I knew I was going to have a flight canceled along this journey and with travel insurance (most) fees incurred for new flights or say an extra night in a destination is covered. The past five years I’ve rarely left the country without insurance and I always use World Nomads. Their price is right and their customer service is amazing. I’m currently amidst a claim and will update what travel insurance is going to do with the extra costs of flights.
Always book with a credit card that offers travel insurance
Many major credit cards offer comprehensive travel insurance when booked with the card. By purchasing with a credit card, you’re insuring your flight and can seek a refund afterward or make a claim. One leg was booked on American Express and after my flight was canceled, I had the entire fare refunded back to me. (this was because of a cancellation, be sure to always check travel insurance writing.
Book the extra flight ASAP if you’re on a tight schedule
Often times in the case of flight cancellation, it may take a while to get a new flight booked and scheduled. In my case, Adria was never going to book me another flight. If you are not on a tight schedule, often airlines will help to put you on a new flight, but it could take a day or so depending on availability. I did not have this freedom, so I acted ahead and booked a new leg right away.
Know it’s not the first time
It’s easy to panic and feel that it’s a special scenario that your flight is canceled, delayed or whatever it may be. The truth is, you’re not the first person to have this happen to you when you travel so that means there is probably some solution. Yes it is not fun and that’s okay for it to be a rather frustrating and complicated process, but it helps a ton to put it in perspective. At least for me, it helps me recognize that there are solutions and I can even ask others what I should do. It may mean that I spend an extra day traveling but ultimately there is always a solution.
Be as proactive as possible
Now we can’t predict the future but when I did see that Adria Airways was going bankrupt I knew I had to make a game-time decision on whether or not to book new flights. By keeping up to date with my airlines or hotels booked, it helps you have a bit of foresight.
I’ll give one more example. I always check my flight’s schedule and arrival for the day before. Your flight is often repeated every single day on major routes so chances are that if your flight was canceled or delayed the day before, yours will be too. Travis and I were traveling to Florence one year and I had seen that his flight itinerary had a ton of delays the day before which meant he wouldn’t make his connecting flight. He went earlier to the airport, got on an earlier flight and made his connection because of being proactive.
I always check the day’s previous route when possible, especially during bad weather, strikes, and other events that could affect flights.
Contact the airline and seek compensation
Did you know you’re entitled to compensation in the EU for flight cancellations? Anywhere from 400-800 euros per person depending on the situation. Be sure to follow up with a claim with the airline for compensation as well. (I’m currently waiting for mine.)
Roll with the punches
I’ll be the first to say it — travel delay and cancellation is no fun. It sucks — but roll with it. This is part of the journey and try to make the most of it! I had a very long day at London Gatwick airport so I turned the lounge into an office and camped out for the day. And always, be easy-going on those who work at the airlines or travel insurance as it’s often out of their control.
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These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.
1. Book Your Flights
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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
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Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
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I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: