Airline Meltdowns: Delays and Cancellations


Spirit Airlines is the latest carrier to experience a systemwide disruption.

Almost every major airline has suffered operational meltdowns caused by everything from computer system outages to severe weather. How each airline deals with the inconvenience to travelers is what sets them apart.

As travelers, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan should an airline not respond satisfactorily during travel delays and disruptions.

An airline’s Contract of Carriage is their bible for how they will provide service to travelers and deal with various issues, including service disruptions.

Navigating flight disruptions:

Refer to your airline’s Contract of Carriage.

Airlines spell out their policies regarding how they will minimize inconvenience to customers in the event of delays and cancellation as well as every other aspects of their service.

Some airlines go out of their way to accommodate travelers who’ve been inconvenienced. For example, my luggage was delayed on arrival in Palm Springs on Alaska Airlines. Alaska allowed me to purchase essentials since my luggage wouldn’t arrive until the next day. Upon presenting the receipts at their Palm Springs ticket counter, they issued a check to me on the spot. That’s excellent service.

Since there is always a likelihood that your airline may fall short or take too long to handle a lapse in service correctly, it’s always good to have a plan B to fall back on.

Use a credit card that provides travel delay/interruption coverage.

Some credit cards have travel protection built in when you use their card for the full purchase of your airline ticket. Check on your credit card issuer’s website for travel benefits they offer when you use their card to purchase airline tickets.

Often, accessing these benefits is as easy as mailing in your receipts and proof of disruption to receive reimbursement directly from the credit card company.

Purchase travel protection insurance

Some policies begin providing payments for covered travelers immediately when your flight is delayed over a certain number of hours. Additionally, some companies offer free coverage for children under 17 that are traveling with covered parents.

Save your travel records and communications

Save emails from your airline, and be sure to screenshot your flight delay and cancellation notifications to be reimbursed from the credit card or insurance company.

These records will also assist with your correspondence with the airline as well as with filing a complaint with the DOT.

The airlines that I feel are doing the best job of accommodating US domestic travelers are United, Delta, Alaska, and Southwest Airlines. United and Delta have stepped up their technology to allow travelers to choose alternate flights most easily via their smartphone apps rather than waiting to speak to a representative at the airport or by phone.

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