Isabella’s Professional Travel Tips: Handling the Unexpected

If you travel only occasionally then you might never have to deal with an unexpected event. The rest of us, however, must learn to react effectively to the occasional travel disruption. This blog offers my tips on how to stay calm and solve whatever problem arises.

Each day there are about 102,500 flights departing around the world. Approximately 3% of those flights have some sort of substantial delay or cancellation. That means that more than 3,000 flights are disrupted per day affecting about 615,000 passengers. The percentage is small but the number of affected passengers is huge! If you fly more than a very few times per year, it is quite likely you’ll be part of the statistics of disrupted passengers.

The type of travel disruption you are liable to encounter includes a delayed or cancelled flight that affects all of the passengers. Alternatively, you could have a single passenger issue like a lost bag, an unissued ticket or a cancelled reservation. In general, it is easier to quickly resolve a single passenger issue compared to a matter that affects all passengers because the problem is smaller. Of course, if it is your problem, it seems incredibly large and important!

Here are some easy rules to ensure that you address the matter quickly and with the least anxiety or anger:

  1. Stay calm– I know this is often difficult but thinking clearly will allow you to obtain a better resolution. There are very few events that will be ruined by a travel disruption. A delay to your plans will not destroy anything if you refuse to let it bother you.
  2. Be Prepared – Have all of your travel documents and information in a single place. If you don’t want to keep printed versions then store them on your phone’s wallet instead. This should include your reservations, confirmation numbers, electronic tickets, carrier/supplier codes and important telephone numbers.
  3. Assess the situation– If the matter affects the entire flight, then move quickly to the airline’s ticket desk. That is where the problem will be addressed. If the problem only affects you, take the responsibility for solving the issue into your own hands. Call your travel agent (if you used one) or jump online to make alternative arrangements. Flights that depart earlier in the day are less prone to delay and cancellation and offer more re-accommodation options throughout the day. Use flight status and weather websites to understand the severity of the delay or cancellation.
  4. Project a pleasant demeanour– Everyone you deal with will expect you to be angry and anxious. By staying cool and in control of your emotions, you will surprise the agent assigned to solve your problem and will therefore receive much better treatment. That agent is just trying to help you. Treat that agent well and they will solve your problem favourably for you.
  5. Solve the Problem– make alternative travel arrangements quickly and efficiently. If the problem affects multiple passengers, then the sooner you resolve your issue, the better off you will be as everybody will be looking for similar solutions. Remember, ‘the early bird catches the worm…’ If you have premium status on an airline’s frequent flyer program, then use it! Call the premium support help line and explain your issue and ask for resolution.
  6. Address the other elements of your trip– If you will be delayed long enough, you might lose a night in your hotel. Call the property and explain the situation. The hotel will quickly amend your reservation accordingly. This happens to people all of the time. If a car service is picking you up or you are renting a car, notify the provider as well. If you have any appointments that are affected, inform accordingly. Everyone will understand; almost everyone has been affected by a travel disruption. Finally, if you have a bottle of water and a snack, you’ll be more comfortable during a long delay on the tarmac.
  7. Know your rights– The airline is responsible for re-accommodating you for a cancelled or long-delayed flight. You are not obligated to take their first offer for resolution, however, if it doesn’t fit your needs. Speak calmly but firmly with the agent until you are given an alternative that will work for you. Collect any vouchers for hotels, meals or other compensation. If you are travelling in the European Union, you are to be provided cash compensation for delays and flight disruptions.

Here’s a final pro-tip: Most credit cards today offer travel insurance free of charge. You often don’t even need to book on that credit card for your travel to be covered. When you have the time (like when you return after the trip), review any uncovered expenses associated with your disruption and apply to your credit card company for compensation. You might be surprised at how understanding your credit card company can be.

No one wants to have a travel disruption but you almost certainly will encounter one from time to time. Be prepared for the unexpected and handle matters quickly and efficiently for a less stressful time.



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