What Do I Do If My Flight is Grounded?


When bad weather hits, flight delays and cancellations are inevitable and leave plenty of people stuck. Keep your cool and follow this checklist to figure out your next steps:

1. First, the bad news.

Most airlines have a “force majeure” or “acts of God” clause that allows them to cancel or postpone a flight for weather-related reasons. Because of this, they are generally not obligated to refund you. Similarly, the site that sold you the ticket (whether you bought it from the airline itself or from an online travel agency), is generally not obligated to reimburse you. They may be able to rebook your flight once air travel is again possible.

2. Track the news.

Before you decide if you want to rebook or cancel your flight (if you have that option), know the weather forecast to see if there’s a likelihood a rebooked flight will be compromised.

3. Who to contact.

If you decide to rebook the flight, you have options: you can wait in line at the check-in counter, call the airline, call the online travel agency that booked your ticket, go through the airline’s website and/or contact any of the above via social media. In fact, you may want to do several of these things at once. Not sure who to contact? If you booked through KAYAK, your confirmation email will contain info on who handles customer service.

4. Alternate routes.

If it doesn’t look like your airline will get flights off the ground anytime soon, you can fire up the KAYAK app (App Store, Google Play) to see if there are alternate travel options from other providers. Or, check rental cars if you’re traveling shorter distances in case your flight has an 8-hour delay but it’s only a 5-hour road trip. Sure, you’ll spend more, but sometimes it’s worth it to get where you need to be.

5. Change or cancel other parts of your trip.

Don’t forget to call other travel providers like the hotel, rental car company, cruise line or any activities and tours you booked for your trip. Keep track of who reimbursed you (and who didn’t). If anything, it’ll help determine who you use in the future.

6. Keep your cool.

Trust us: don’t fly off the handle at the check-in counter. Besides it not being that person’s fault, a temper tantrum also pretty much ensures you won’t get what you want.

7. Ask for things nicely.

Instead, be respectful and calmly state your case. Feel free to emphasize the amount of time/sleep/money lost due to the cancellation. Some airlines, eager to win a loyal customer, will offer perks like upgraded seating, flight vouchers, or even a hotel stay while you wait for the next flight out. At the very least, most airlines will waive the “change fee” for rebooked travel.

8. Ask for cash.

If you don’t plan on rebooking your trip, see if you can get a cash reimbursement rather than a voucher. Vouchers can come with a host of restrictions that actually make them less convenient.

9. Notify work.

Whether it’s your boss or your clients, be sure to contact those expecting things from you in the next several days.

10. Avoid travel snags in the future.

While there’s no real way to plan for sudden flight cancellations, we’re doing what we can to make sure you’re kept as up-to-date as possible. When you add your ticket confirmation to KAYAK Trips, we’ll send you alerts whenever the expected departure or arrival time of your flight changes.