Ugh, the dreaded flight cancellation. The moment, after six hours of waiting in an airport terminal, the ticker finally updates with ‘CANCELLED’. It’s enough to make you want to cry.

But before you shed any tears, take a look at our tips for surviving a flight cancellation gracefully.

Plan ahead

(If you are Googling this article in response to a current flight cancellation, skip ahead as this is sure to devastate you.)

Of course the best way to beat a cancellation is to plan ahead. Purchase cancellation cover for your trip before departing to ensure travel insurance representatives deal with your disaster, not you. Also, check flight information and forecasts a few hours before takeoff. While this can’t stave off a weather delay, it can help you mentally prepare. When a storm is coming, some airlines will post offers on their websites that may allow you to switch to a later flight with no fee. If you find that the flight has already been cancelled, you can start untangling the travel situation from home.

If there is even the slightest threat of a weather delay, before you leave your house complete these important tasks:

  • Program important numbers into your phone (such as the airline reservations hotline)
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have a working phone charger
  • Pack an airport survival kit: a small blanket, pillow, eye mask, and a few pain relievers.

Do not panic

A cancelled flight is a minor setback, and getting stuck in the airport is much better than flying through a dangerous storm. Think of this as an opportunity to catch up on work, do some light reading, or finally buy souvenirs. There is no destination or event worth risking your safety to get to.

As long as there have been flights, there have been flight cancellations. Breathe deeply and know that everyone understands your pain. Panicking will not make the next few hours pass any easier for you or your fellow travellers.

Get in line

Once the delays start piling on, start hovering around the customer service desk. This way, if your flight is cancelled, you will be first in line to book the next available flight. Many airlines will book you onto a different carrier’s flight if their own airline does not have another flight available. Do not feel pressured by others around you; ask all necessary questions before leaving the service desk.

Call the airline

Do not feel pressured to follow the flight attendants’ instructions to deal only with them. When your flight gets cancelled, drop everything and call your airline. This can expedite the process of finding a new flight and get you out much faster. Inquire as to whether the airline will compensate you for any part of the rebooking process. Often airlines will waive any additional fees for changing flights if cancellations are weather-related. Again, do not feel pressured to immediately get off the line; secure your new flight information and then ask all necessary questions before hanging up.

Snuggle up

Most airlines do not provide accommodation if your flight is cancelled due to weather. They may provide vouchers for nearby hotels, but chances are you may have to stick it out in the airport. If you find yourself with an overnight stay in terminal two, follow these steps for maximum comfort:

Find food

You might be surprised to find out that many airport terminals do not run ’round-the-clock. If you are facing an overnight excursion, find something to eat (and maybe something for later) before the shops close.

Get cozy

It will be worth the investment to purchase a small blanket. In a pinch, your luggage can often be used as a pillow, but trust us, it really doesn’t do double duty as a quilt. Airports are notoriously cold, and temperatures often drop at night (due to all the glass).

Sit down

Find a seat or, preferably, a bank of seats, to make your home for the night. Choose your surroundings carefully, as nearby seats will likely fill and options to move may be scarce. If you can, find a location near an outlet to ensure your phone does not run out of battery (the last thing you need is to miss another flight because of an alarm clock that does not work).

Image courtesy of Flickr user OakleyOriginals; cropped from original