Call Customer Care if Your Flight is Canceled

I got a 5am text from my best friend this morning. “They canceled my flight!! WTF?” Now, normally I might be a little bit annoyed at a text this early, but since I just went through something similar a few weeks ago, I wanted to help. She got the phone call saying her flight was canceled while in line to check in, but as soon as that happened the previously fast moving line slowed to a standstill. My text advice was for her to call customer care even though she was already in line. (I’m amazed I was coherent enough to give advice at that hour.) The theory is, even if there is a long wait in the physical line and the customer care line, it gives you better odds of having your issue resolved quickly.

I have also used this strategy when flights are delayed. There have been multiple times when a delayed flight has touched down, and within about a minute I am on my phone calling airline support to find out if I can be rerouted. In the case of my friend, she got someone on the phone first, who was able to get her on the next available flight to Minneapolis. It meant she had to sit in the airport for an extra three hours, but at least she knew she would be on that flight and able to see her family today.

Readers, what usually works better for you? Calling or standing in line?

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  1. Whatever gets you there the quickest. I always will get in line immediately to hold a spot, then call. Availability on outgoing flights fills up FAST I have learned. The sooner you get a hold of someone (in line or on the phone) the earlier you are going to get out. I’ve had situations where I’ve sat down on my laptop to look up flights, and while reading them off to the CS rep on the phone, they fill up. The entire time you are waiting, customer service is placing people ahead of you in empty seats.

  2. In my experience whenever a flight gets cancelled, it’s always best to call or if already in the gate area, sometimes a gate agent who is handling a different flight that has just left will help you out before moving on to their next assignment.

    Also, if you’re in the gate area and you have lounge access, they may help you.

  3. I agree 100%. It happened to me. I was leaving Kona from my Honeymoon on a 8pm UA flight connecting in LAX to Newark.
    Flight was delayed twice for mechanical problem, then the eventual cancel announcement at 10:30pm was made and told everyone to go to baggage claim & pick up shuttle to hotel.

    We had to return to NY. The last flight out of that airport was an 11pm US Air to Phoenix. I called UA immediately but my wife insisted to wait in line to talk to gate agent about rerouting. So I waited in line while I was on hold with UA. Luckily phone agent was able to put me on that US Air flight to Phoenix, then connecting in Baltimore to LGA. They e-mailed me new confirmation immediately (hooray iPhone for talking and checking e-mail at same time). As I got off, we reached the front of the line, the girl ahead of us pleaded with the gate agent but he said that US Air flight was completely sold out!! My wife asked to change our flight anyway, the guy said no way. When I told him, we were already on the US Air flight, he said you should RUN and check in!!

    I proved to my wife by calling UA fast, we got last of empty seats, while talking to a gate agent got NOTHING.
    Lesson learned- call the airline, while waiting in line.

  4. I’ve stopped waiting in line, and exclusively jump on the phone. Especially with the special priority phone numbers, agents on the line can see your entire history of travel and can make miracles happen since they know you’re a loyal customer. Agents at the front desks are typically scrambling, dealing with a lot angrier customers, and (in my experience) can’t override some things to get you on a sooner flight. Agents on the phone are usually just having a typical day (and therefore less cranky) and have access to make exceptions and do whatever it takes to make you happy.

  5. My answer is a little different because my office still books through a local travel agency. I’ve gotten lucky that most of the time I’ve had a flight canceled (or in one instance, was flown into a completely different airport because of weather problems and had to rebook from there) I’ve been able to reach my agent and she calls through whatever number she can use.

    If I can’t reach her, I wait in line and call and see which gets me a quicker solution.

  6. It really depends on the agent you get on the phone. Some phone agents seem to know how to deal with IRROPs while others don’t. Airport agents seem to always have the power to rebook you during IRROPs. So I always do what you described – wait in line for the in-person agent, but try to get it handled by phone while waiting inline.

  7. I use crankyconcierge.com to monitor my flights and to proactively reroute me. I’ve gotten an email while taxiing in on a late connection telling me the new connection info. I’ve also had emails while en route to the airport with delay and re-routing info.

    The service and peace of mind is well worth the relatively small fee.

  8. I’ve rebooked connections while in the air using the wifi. Delta.com will present you with new travel options when you log on to your account.

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