Canceled Emergency Kit: What to Pack and Know

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If you’re not prepared to face cancellations or delays on your next flight to the airport, you may not have heard the news: Summer travel is hell. Airlines continue to deal with staff shortages, downsizing routes and summer storms, which have increased the chances of you not reaching your final destination on time — or at all.

If nothing else, experiences of the unpredictable travel landscape have taught travelers to expect the unexpected. But if you’re not ready to be stuck in limbo, consider this your one-stop shop for everything you need before you head out on your next trip.

You should prepare for cancellations and delays before you arrive at the airport. In fact, do it as soon as you book a flight. Start by booking directly with the airline rather than a third party, says Phil Dingler, co-founder of travel blog The Vacationer.

“If your flight is cancelled, you will need to speak to a customer service agent. Book directly with the airline so you can get through to them in case something goes wrong.” And if you can, while you’re booking your flight, avoid flights with layovers. He adds that more stops increases the potential for travel chaos.

The do’s and don’ts of flying this summer

Booking one of the first flights of the day is also key. Cancellations and delays have a domino effect, and flying early will reduce the chances of problems — and give you more options to fly later in the day if you run into problems.

Use technology to your advantage

Dengler and Heather Poole, a flight attendant for American Airlines, gave the same advice: Download the airline’s app, and be prepared to hit Twitter if your flight is cancelled. Airline apps can alert you to gate changes and cancellations before the information reaches the gate agent. And once a flight is canceled, direct messaging to the airline’s Twitter account can be the quickest way to talk to someone as companies continue to deal with hours-long wait times on the phone.

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Airlines apps can also help you avoid lines at the check-in counter by letting you download your boarding pass to your phone, choose your seat, upload documents, and even now check your bag. Alaska Airlines announced this week that it will allow customers to check in their checked baggage before they arrive at the airport and transfer their flight information to electronic baggage tags through an app.

Plus, if your flight is cancelled, the airline’s app is probably the quickest way to find out what other flights the airline offers.

For a flight arriving or departing from the United States, you are entitled to a refund if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed and you choose not to make another choice, under Department of Transportation rules. It also applies if you are involuntarily returned to a service of a lower standard than you paid for it. There are no laws that require US airlines to offer hotels, meal vouchers, or other services beyond the cost of the flight, but you should always ask your airline what they can do. These services usually need to be requested in person at the airport, and not over the phone or online.

You are also entitled to compensation if you are denied boarding because your flight was overcrowded and you did not volunteer to give up your seat. Airlines are allowed to overbook flights, and there is no minimum they must provide when asking travelers if anyone is willing to take a subsequent flight. Recently, passengers reported that airlines offered thousands of people to volunteer to bump off flights.

How to get a refund if your flight is cancelled

If you experience involuntary shocks, airlines must give you a form detailing your rights to compensation, which are often linked when you reach your final destination. Keep in mind that most airlines require you to check in or at the gate at a certain time to be eligible for compensation beyond the cost of the flight.

Compensation rules vary around the world. For flights within Europe, EU Regulation 261 sets out rules for compensation and assistance to passengers if their flight is canceled or delayed, or if they are unable to board the plane.

If your flight arrives at or departs from an EU airport, you are entitled to up to €600 for long delays or cancellations. If your flight is more than two hours late, you are entitled to meals.

There is a checklist of special requirements due to delay that must be met to claim compensation – passengers must be checked in on time, the airline must be responsible for the delay and the flight must have taken off or landed in the EU, to name a few. Airlines do not need to provide compensation under “exceptional circumstances,” which include bad weather and security risks, among other things.

If you’re going to be stuck at the airport, you’ll need to use all of your equipment. An external battery may cost you $30 or more, but it’s worth knowing that you won’t have to fight for outlet space or be chained to a wall if you need to rebook your phone or use it to entertain yourself.

A special meal can beat the end of the holiday gloom

Also, airport food is expensive. Even if you’re not impressed with the price, there are no guarantee options that will be open because the airports are dealing with staff shortages. “Peanut butter and jelly taste 1,000 times better than anything you’d get on a plane,” Paul said. As a flight attendant, she often carries oatmeal, tuna, crackers, and almonds.

Finally, having a book, magazine, or other form of non-electronic entertainment can help you occupy the time when you can’t use your phone.

A canceled flight doesn’t make anyone happy. Travel buds are getting frustrated, and airlines have fewer staff at the moment to deal with the growing emotions. Referring to her 25 years of experience, Paul said, “Just a smile would go a long way. Like please and thank you…. Now more than ever, you just want to do anything for a nice person.”

“It’s very rare to have someone who is calm, patient, and kind,” she said. “If I can do anything to a person like that, I will get out of my way.”

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