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Never Do This When Your Flight Is Canceled, Travel Expert Warns

Instead of panicking over a travel emergency, learn what to do and what not to do.

While demand for travel surges, airlines are struggling to beef up operations amid pandemic disruptions, and widespread flight cancellations have caused major travel headaches for many passengers. So if you're taking to the skies, plan to exercise patience—and tenacity. And above all else, make sure you come prepared with a game plan. With help from the experts at Scott's Cheap Flights, learn what to do—and what not to do—if your flight is canceled.

RELATED: Major Airlines Are Canceling Tons of Flights Right Now—Here's Why.

Know your rights if your flight gets canceled. 

A female traveler sitting with her luggage looking distressed

Your flight suddenly got canceled—what happens next? You might not want to hear this, but the carrier is not legally obligated to get you on the flight you originally booked. "Unfortunately, the airline has the power here," according to Scott's Cheap Flights. "Their contract stipulates they will get you from your origin to your destination, even if that's on a different date than you intended."

RELATED: Never Wear This One Thing on a Plane, Flight Attendant Warns.

That means an airline can put you on a flight with a different carrier.

man tired from early morning flight

If your flight gets canceled, an airline can try to put you on a flight with another airline, per what's called an interline agreement. That means United could cancel your flight and book you on another one on American. (Southwest doesn't have this kind of arrangement, as USA Today reports, which further complicated the airline's recent spate of cancelations for passengers, whose only option was to try to get on a later Southwest flight—along with everyone else in the same bind.)

If you choose not to rebook on a later flight, you're entitled to a refund.

Passengers waiting at airport gate

If you choose not to let the airline accommodate you for travel on a later flight, you're eligible for a cash refund, Scott's Cheap Flights says. That might sound appealing, but think before you take this option: Booking a last-minute flight can be an ultra-expensive proposition, and you may have no other choice if air travel is the only feasible way to get where you need to go.

If your flight is canceled, never give up easily.

Woman sad and unhappy at the airport with flight canceled
David Prado Perucha / Shutterstock

So here's the one thing experts say not to do if you find yourself dealing with a canceled flight: Don't give up easily! Bring your patience and determination and be aggressive in seeking a swift and satisfactory resolution.

First, focus all your energy on getting rebooked as soon as possible so you can get where you need to go. Wait in line in person, call customer service, use social media, and try the airline's app or chat platform.

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Once you've rebooked, figure out what you're owed.

Woman wearing face mask at airport and maintaining social distance
william87 / iStock

"If you've booked with a credit card, check to see if it offers some kind of travel interruption insurance, which will cover your hotel and food while you're stuck, and may even cover the cost of buying a new flight home if you need to," Scott's Cheap Flights advises.

After that, follow up relentlessly. Reach out to customer service, and you might find the airline offers you a voucher for future travel—even weeks after the incident.

RELATED: Never Wear These Shoes on a Plane, Flight Attendant and Pilot Warn.

Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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