In the past week or so, a rock solid air carrier, Southwest Airlines, has been in a turmoil. A day of mass cancellations has caused a week or more of added cancellations and delayed rebooking. Reports of people renting cars and driving to their destination have been reported. A few lessons can be learned from this.
1). Purchase travel insurance that covers trip delay. At least if you need to rent a car or buy air ticket, you can file a claim and get some, if not all, of your expenses reimbursed. Just know, insurance doesn’t cover plane delays that are caused by something within the control of the airline. Why? Because the airline should be the one reimbursing you. But sometimes, the delay is caused by weather. Weather is usually a covered reason. Just be sure to read any policy you get to understand the details.
2). Fly a major carrier. The Southwest debacle shows that things can happen even to the big guys (which Southwest is an example, at least in the domestic market). The big guys have more planes and personnel to resolve problems quickly. The smaller carriers may not have a plane they can fly immediately to where you are.
3). If you find yourself in a situation where your flight is cancelled, let your travel agent know immediately. Go to the customer service area for rebooking a flight. Also, get on the phone to the customer service number for the airline. This puts you in 2 lines. Your Travel Agent will be working also during this time to rebook you. But you might get through to someone faster than the Travel Agent can.
4). Take a good battery backup for your phone. You will need it during this time to stay in touch with your Travel Agent, if you have one. If you don’t, you will REALLY need it to talk with airline, perhaps find a hotel. Reserve rental car. Notify family and friends, etc.
5). Pack your patience when you travel by air. Calm your anger. It isn’t the poor clerk behind the counter’s fault that your flight is canceled, delayed or that she/he can’t put you on the next flight out because it is completely full.
In the totality of life, airline disruptions are things to overcome with grace. Flying is not an inalienable right. It is a privilege that we pay dearly for. We expect it to be easy and perfect (or at least with only minor delays). It is not always the way we expect and that fact should be expected. If the event you are traveling for is so important that it would be devastating if you missed, we highly recommend that you go a day or more early. If the delay would be financially devastating, we recommend insurance.