Carolina Contreras, a 34-year-old business owner who frequently flies between New York City and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, has been using JetBlue exclusively for her travel for nearly a decade without a problem. But on her last two flights, she said her flights were delayed by several hours; one was rejected six times.
“I have to be places. I have to rest, ”said Ms. Contreras, whose salon, Miss Rizos, has offices in both cities. “I know how difficult the pandemic has been, but people need to pull themselves together. “
Ms. Contreras is not alone. Thousands of flights have been delayed or canceled by airlines in recent weeks as travel resumes, with airlines blaming the disruptions on bad weather and labor shortages.
“We are obviously in a new world, and there are a lot of changes, rules, restrictions, openings, closings, peaks and also supply and demand issues for airlines,” said Michael Holtz, Managing Director of SmartFlyer, a luxury travel agency based in New York. “Frankly, no one can really keep up. “
If you find yourself stuck at an airport with a canceled or delayed flight, here’s what you need to know.
First of all: prepare before you go.
If possible, try to book directly through the airline rather than through an online travel agent, which can make it more difficult to change your itinerary in the event of a cancellation or delay.
“Your rights under the law are always the same,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Cheap flights from Scott, a service that tracks and emails airline ticket offers to customers. But dealing with an airline, he said, “is going to be easier and generally more efficient.”
You should also make sure you have all the necessary documents required to travel, such as a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination, which many countries require to enter. “A lot of people don’t have the right information before they get to the airport, and then there’s a lot of confusion,” Mr. Holtz said.
Check in 24 hours before your flight and, if possible, Mr. Holtz recommends traveling only with hand baggage to avoid queues for check-in or baggage drop-off, which can often be very long .
You should also continue to check the status of your flight before you leave, if your flight is delayed or changed. It may be useful to download the app for the airline you are traveling with so that you can more easily track your flight and any schedule changes.
What should I do if my flight is delayed?
Under federal law, airlines are required to fully reimburse customers if a flight is significantly delayed and the passenger chooses not to travel. What constitutes a significant delay is determined by the airline, but Mr Keyes said two hours is usually a good rule of thumb. You should check your airline’s website for their contract of carriage, which outlines the policies, for more specific information.
If you choose to travel, you should line up to speak to a gate agent to discuss your options. You will usually be placed on the next flight with seats available. You can also call the airline, but given the long wait times on many customer service lines in the United States, Mr. Keyes recommends trying one of the airline’s international numbers, which are listed. on the “contact us” pages of their website and may have a shorter lead time. wait.
“You want to make sure you know the cell phone rates,” he said, “but if you’re calling Canada it’s like two cents a minute. It’s going to be a 20 minute call versus a three hour wait if you’re calling an American hotline. I think it’s worth 40 cents.
If you booked through an online travel agent, like Expedia or Orbitz, you will need to call them directly to resolve your issue. “The airline generally won’t want to deal with you,” Keyes said.
If you choose to continue traveling, you are not entitled to compensation under federal law, but some airlines may offer it if the delay is their fault, such as caused by a mechanical or personnel issue.
American Airlines, for example, will organize an overnight stay for customers whose flights are delayed and do not board before midnight on the day of arrival, said Andrea Koos, spokesperson for American Airlines.
JetBlue offers compensation for flights delayed by three hours or more, from $ 50 to $ 200, depending on the length of the delay. If your flight was booked directly by the airline, they will email you within seven days of the flight’s scheduled departure to provide you with instructions on how to receive compensation, in accordance with its Charter of Client Rights. If you booked through a third party, such as Expedia or Orbitz, you will need to call that company’s customer service to request compensation.
If the delay is caused by a natural disaster, such as bad weather, and you are stuck somewhere overnight, you are on your own for meals and accommodations.
What should I do if my flight is canceled?
If your flight is canceled by the airline, you will be accommodated on a subsequent flight or, if you decide not to travel, you will be entitled to a full refund under federal law. If the flight had multiple stopovers, you would be reimbursed for the unused portion of the flight.
Often, airlines offer travel credits or vouchers instead of a full refund, usually valid within one year of use. “This is why it is so important to know your rights under the law,” said Keyes. “If you decide not to take a trip, try to lobby for a cash refund rather than a voucher. It may sound very obvious, but cash is much more valuable than an airline voucher. “
If you decide to accept a flight later, you must stand in line to speak to the boarding agent (or the customer service desk, if directed to you). But Keyes recommends doing your own research beforehand to see which flight is best for you, including looking at your carrier’s partner airlines and asking the agent if there is room on the flight. ‘another carrier.
“When a flight is canceled, officers have tons to deal with and they’re just trying to find a way to resolve the situation,” he said. “They are not necessarily trying to determine which flight is the best, easiest and most appropriate for your specific situation.”
While in line, call the airline or online travel agency you booked your flight through, in case you can get assistance before contacting the boarding agent.
In recent years, travelers have taken to social media to voice their travel frustrations or contact customer service, but Keyes said airlines are encouraging people to call their customer service lines.
Airlines may also offer compensation, but you are not entitled to it under federal law. In the case of JetBlue, if it cancels a flight within four hours of its departure and cannot accommodate a traveler within the scheduled departure time, it offers $ 50 in compensation. If the cancellation occurs after the scheduled departure, the number goes up to $ 100.
Delta will accommodate passengers whose flights are canceled between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in one of its contracted hotels for the night, but, if no rooms are available, will provide a voucher worth up to 100 $ that can be used for future trips.
If you think your experience deserves compensation, just ask. “Generally, airlines will be more cooperative with regard to compensation if the flight is canceled,” Mr. Holtz said.
And make sure you’re nice and courteous, Mr. Keyes said.
“If you’re an airline agent, especially with those hour-long takes, you spend all day dealing with angry, frustrated and impatient customers who frankly don’t treat you as well as you should. “, did he declare. “If they have someone who treats them humanely, I think they’re much more likely to go out of their way to try and help you. “
Mr. Keyes also noted that airline agents have quite a bit of leeway, so you shouldn’t give up if the person you’re speaking with isn’t responsive.
“Rather than trying to pressure or argue with this person, which will hardly ever work,” he said, hang up and call back. “You are going to be connected to one of the thousands of other agents, each of whom can say ‘yes’. “
How to use a travel credit?
If you receive travel credit for a canceled flight and booked directly through the airline, you will usually be able to redeem it directly through the airline’s app or website.
After logging into your account, you will be given the option to apply travel credit to your purchase at checkout.
Airlines usually send an email with instructions for using travel credit, but information can also be found on airline websites. American Airlines, for example, provides detailed instructions on how to redeem the different types of credits it grants to passengers.
But the type of ticket you bought is important. If you originally purchased a basic economy ticket, which is technically non-refundable, you may need to call the airline directly to rebook.
If you booked through an online travel agency, the credit will need to be used on their site, Keyes said.
Follow the journey of the New York Times on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And subscribe to our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter for expert advice on smarter travel and inspiration for your next vacation. Fancy a future getaway or a simple wheelchair trip? Check out our List of 52 places for 2021.