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What to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled

What to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled

Travelling can be one of life's greatest joys.

And if you've ever been stuck in an airport departure lounge, you'll know it can also be hell.

Everything from delays and cancellations to lost luggage and even theft, can conspire to make a dream journey a nightmare.

You're grounded

According to the latest figures from the Australian Government, August's flight cancellation rate was higher than the long term average of 1.4%. On some routes it was 4.4% 

And international rates can be much higher. 

Which basically means if you fly often enough, eventually you will run into problems, ranging from a minor delay to a full on cancellation.

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, there's never a convenient time for your flight to be cancelled as frequent traveler from NSW, Beth Yves experienced on a recent trip to the States.

“Our cancellation was a nightmare. First, we sat for five hours before the cancellation was announced.

Then the airline’s ticket counter was overwhelmed. Then their app crashed.

We had no other options. We couldn’t even leave the airport because all the hotels were booked. Some help would have been nice.”

However there are some things you can do if you're hit with a travel hiccup.

1. Use technology

There are some great apps that can help you and others track your flight so that you can get as much as a head's up as possible about delays.

In some cases this can stop you leaving for the airport unnecessarily

Tripcase and Flightradar 24 are easy to use.

2. Book another flight asap

In the old days, your only option was to stand in line at the airport.

But now you don't have to wait two hours in a slow-moving line and realise it's getting you nowhere.

Instead whip out your phone or tablet.

You can rebook on your mobile phone, either by calling the airline or using their mobile app.

Better still, do all three of these things at the same time.

Put every resource to work for you from the start because as Alain from Sydney found out, being slow off the mark can mean much bigger delays and costs.

"My flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast was cancelled due to bad weather - it was the last flight of the day.

Suddenly 300 people were trying to get on the next day flights and they were booked out on all airlines for three days within half an hour!

Luckily I called my son and he went online and managed to get me one of the last seats.

The airline was happy to rebook me, but I wasn't prepared to wait half a week to get on a flight."

If you have travel insurance or flight insurance you will likely get a refund.

If you don't, you'll have to wear the cost of a new ticket, which booked at the last moment might be three or four times the price.

3. Get a room

If you're suffering a major delay and need to find an overnight stay or longer at short notice, try websites such as for Australia or for overseas..

When a cancellation turns into a major delay it's time to contact your travel insurance provider.

Your airline might have a programme for dealing with overnight delays, such as providing vouchers for accommodation and meals, or they might not.

Your insurer may well provide compensation as well depending on your cover.

Marco Blair can testify. “Staying overnight was a pain, for us and for those we were supposed to meet. It threw our entire vacation off kilter.

But, working with both our airline and our insurer, however, made the best out of a lousy situation and we spent the night in a good hotel with dinner provided.”

4. Always have travel insurance

While being delayed on a return from an overseas holiday may sound like a bonus, it can end up blowing your budget as many travellers stranded by the Bali volcanic ash can vouch for. 

Plus, major weather events can ground air travel for up to a week, which in turn can throw out many other bookings and flights if you're in the middle of a trip, or on the way to an expensive vacation.

Always have travel insurance. It can mean the difference between inconvenience or an incredibly stressful and costly experience.

If the worst happens, staying in contact with your airline and your travel insurance provider, keeping a good attitude, and utilising your resources will all go a long way to making your delay or cancellation more manageable.





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