Three Tips for Managing Flight Cancellations

When we arrived at Airlie Beach in Queensland, Australia, we were excited for what we anticipated to be the best three days of our trip.  We would take a jet to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef (this one actually happened and it was amazing).  We would ride a boat to Whitehaven Beach to see the inlet.  We’d spend a half day in Hamilton Island sipping on cocktails and shopping in town.

Rain changed all that. 

It rained for 48 hours straight.  Our boat trip was cancelled, Hamilton Island was cancelled and ultimately the road to the airport flooded leaving us with multiple flight cancellations.

We were stuck in the torrential rain for another night — and so was everyone else in Airlie Beach.

Not ideal, but it happens, and you’re sure to be a more seasoned traveler in result.  Here’s what I learned this time around.

  1. Get the travel insurance – In the past, I dismissed this as unnecessary.  When you’re already spending a significant amount on travel this sounds like an easy expense to cut.  Luckily, I booked this flight through my Chase Saphire card, which is one of the best things to happen to my travel routine ever.  It has built in travel insurance that gave us two options.  The first, travel delay insurance, would have covered all expenses related to the additional overnight stay — the additional hotel stay, meals, taxis, etc. — if we took the original flight at its rescheduled time. The second, was trip cancellation insurance, if we booked another flight that could get us to our destination earlier, this insurance would cover the cost of the original, cancelled flight as well as any hotel cancellations we had to make as a result of the travel changes. We choose option two as we were eager to get on the first available plane to our next destination.  This insurance saved us from what could have been almost $1,000 in unexpected expenses.  So whether your credit card has travel insurance, you purchase it through the airline or somewhere else, be sure to get it for all international travel.

  2. Purchase an international cellphone plan— If your flight is cancelled or you have other travel problems, you will need to make several calls.  We spent hours on the phone with the airline, Chase Saphire, hotels and rental car services.  At $2 a minute this can add up fast.  Avoid an enormous phone bill when you get home and purchase an international plan ahead of time.  You can arrange this with your carrier directly before heading abroad or you can purchase a sim card at the airport when you reach your destination.  For about $30 you will have access to a phone line in the case of an emergency.  Access to Google Maps can also come in handy for navigating from place to place.

  3. Think of all adjacent reservations — Your instinct will be to figure out your flight, which should certainly be your priority.  However, if the cancellations are widespread, like our’s were, you should quickly work on securing a hotel for the night.  Everyone will be looking to extend their stays and hotels will fill up quickly.  A roof over your head is a basic necessity. Then, if applicable, call the hotel you’re not going to make it to.  Explain your situation and ask about their cancellation policies.  If they do not allow refunds, your insurance may cover the expense.  Also remember all other transportation reservations.  Did you have a rental car arranged?  Was there a shuttle, ferry or taxi to the airport? Be sure to reschedule or cancel all reservations that will be impacted by the trickle down effect.

Above all, just embrace it.  There are worse places to be stuck than on vacation.  Kick back with a cold one, play a board game, grab some great food and stay safe.