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10 Things You Can Do To Handle Flight Delays And Cancellations


Odds are if you are a regular traveler -- and even if you’re not -- you will eventually experience a flight delay. These delays are caused by things including weather, air traffic control issues, mechanicals, crew problems, delayed aircraft, and airport security, to name a few. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has a website with a great FAQ on delays and cancellations. But below are 10 things you can do to help minimize the effects of delays and cancellations.


1. Know Your Passenger Rights

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Most airlines have what's called a Contract of Carriage, which outlines what passengers' rights are in case of things including delays and cancellations. Check out this handy list compiled by Airfarewatchdog with links to the contract for major U.S. and international carriers. And click here to see what things the airlines do that cause travelers to be dissatisfied.


2. View Airline On-Time Statistics and Delay Causes

DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) tracks this data monthly, and breaks it down by airline, airport, and what caused the delay.


3. Look at Causes of Delay Numbers

Courtesy of DOT

DOT’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report includes a summary of causes of delay numbers reported by each carrier for the most recent month.  

4. Use FlightCaster to check on the history of delays and cancellations

FlightCaster allows users to check on their flights up to six hours in advance. It uses an algorithm that looks at airline flight data from the past 10 years and matches it to real-time conditions.

5. Sign up for Airline Flight Status Notifications

Businesswoman at airport between flights
Stephen Simpson/Iconica/Getty Images

Most airlines allow passengers to sign up for notifications by flight numbers. By doing this, you will always know where your flight is. And as a bonus, airlines will be proactive while you’re waiting to help accommodate you.


6. Go To Airline Websites For Weather Information

If the airlines know there’s going to be a major weather event like a hurricane or snow storm, they w

7. Download the NextFlight App

Photo courtesy of Ninacoco via Flickr (http://bit.ly/Oqk1hJ)

Sometimes when there’s a delay or cancellation, you need to take matters into your own hands. For those with iPhones or Android phones, pay $2.99 and download this app. You type in the city-pairs you want, add the date, and it will give you a list of the non-stop and connecting flights available. Use this information when you’re negotiating with an airline trying to re-accommodate you.


8. Sign Up for FlightView

Courtesy of FlightView

I did a post on this aviation data company here. One of the many things it does is offer flight notifications, and it even has the ability to tell you what’s happening with your inbound flight.

9. Go Directly to the Source: the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration offers travelers flight delay information directly from its Air Traffic Control System Command Center website. The website has a map of the United States that shows the nation’s major airport. You can look at that map and see delays by color code, or you can search by region, airport or major airport.

10. Use Your Airline Elite Status

I currently have A+ Rapid Rewards status on Southwest Airlines. One of the many perks is a dedicated phone number I can call if there are any flight issues. And because I have that status, like it or not, the airline will be more willing to accommodate me because of the money I spend with them.


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