Thunderstorms in the Northeast created havoc on Friday (and again today) for air travelers nationwide, causing lengthy delays and flight cancellations. Tropical Storm Debby is also pounding Florida and other parts of the Southeast, bringing more disruptions.
If your flight gets canceled or you miss a down-line connection due to a delay, be proactive in seeking reaccommodation.
It's common after a flight gets canceled for gate agents to direct passengers to a central customer service desk for rebooking. But don't simply join the line and think that's your only option. Here are some strategies I employ to get faster service.
First and foremost, immediately call the airline's reservations office as soon as the flight is canceled, or a delay will cause you to miss a connection. Do this as you join the line at the customer service desk. Since call centers typically employ hundreds of agents at a time, chances are you'll get through faster on the phone than waiting for one of the few agents at the desk.
If you're successful in getting rebooked on the phone, ask whether or not you need to see a live agent to get a new boarding pass before stepping out of the line. If you can use a kiosk or mobile app to check-in for your new flight, then and only then is it safe to get out of line.
Consider buying a day pass to the airline's lounge if you're not already a member. In my experience, the customer service lines inside the lounge are significantly shorter than what you'll find in the main terminal. Also, the agents working inside the lounge are typically more experienced and might be able to find new flights faster than their colleagues on the concourse.
If delays are expected when I fly, I always search an airline's website for alternate routes before heading to the airport. Having a list of options to pitch to an agent at the airport could prove helpful. Also consider flying out of the way. I had a Los Angeles to Washington D.C. flight cancel on me once and I ended up flying from L.A. to Seattle to Washington D.C. and made it there before any of the direct options could.
Understand the power of airline travel waivers. In many cases, airlines will waive fees, refund non-refundable tickets and extend the validity of your ticket if disruptions are anticipated. And airlines are becoming increasingly proactive in issuing waivers ahead of forecasted storms. You'll save yourself a major headache if you check the airline's website before heading to the airport and see if you can change your plans from home.
Delays and cancellations are never fun, but employing some of these tips can potentially save you hours of time standing in a ridiculous customer service line like this.