Flight Cancellations |How To Negotiate During A Flight Cancellation or Delay

Unfortunately, I break this rule a lot.  Flying with kids.  Flying for 24 + hours makes me a grumpy camper.  Nevertheless, I have never found that my sour attitude has EVER encouraged someone to help me more.  On other occasions, I have intentionally tried to suppress my inner rage.

However, last time I traveled I kept this rule and the results were amazing.

Here’s a sample of a good conversation during flight cancellations:

Me:  “Excuse me.  Do you think you could help me for a moment?”

Airline Employee: “Sure, what can I do to help?”

Me: “Well, I was on flight XYZ and it seems as though my flight was canceled.  Do you think you could let me know my options?”

Airline Employee: “  Well, you could …”

Me: “It’s just that I’m traveling with my family and I really need your help …”


  • Airline employees do have some control, but not complete control.
  • Airlines will be less obliging if the flight cancelation is due to weather.
  • Try another employee if the first obviously woke up on the wrong site of the bed.
  • Stand back from the counter for a few minutes and watch how the employee interacts with customers.  Is he or she smiling?  Do they look happy?  Stand in the “happy line”.
  • If you can get your baby to cry at the right moment, the results will be priceless.
  • (Ok, I’m going to be a little gender biased.) Female employees typically will be more helpful to families.

Tip #2: Know your rights during a flight cancellation.

While Rule 240 might be a dry document, you might just be glad you read it.  Even though airlines may not be legally bound by the document, most do honor your Rule 240 request.

What obligation does the airline have due to weather conditions?  Perhaps you know they are not required to put you up in a hotel.  You might wait in line and kindly ask if they could make a hotel arrangement for you.  If not, would they have any corporate rates with a local hotel they could offer?  Remember, if you can get to the internet, Hotwire or Priceline might just have a better last minute rate.

If the airline isn’t required to help you and they don’t want to help you, forget it.  Just go with the flow and make the best of the situation.

Tip #3: Try calling the 1-800 number.

Truth is that when a flight is cancelled, all the airline employees automatically grow defensive horns.  They aren’t trying to be mean, but they are just sick of hearing EVERYONE complain about why the flight was cancelled, changed, or delayed.

Since they already explained 1,000 times why they can’t help you, they won’t be too happy when you ask.

Thus, the advantage of a phone call.  Perhaps you’ll find someone in a better mood.

ME: “Hi, I was scheduled to be on flight XYZ,  but the flight was cancelled.  Do you think you could help reschedule me on the next available flight?”

A variation of tip #3 is to go to another service desk in the airport.  Find an employee who is having a great day and talk to them.

Tip #4: Learn to drop it and make it fun instead.

I’ll be honest.  I obsess about stuff.

One mistake by an airline can ruin my trip.  However, why let the airline who cancelled your flight ruin your trip?  This is supposed to be a vacation, isn’t it?

Be like a duck and let the water just slide off your back.

If you’ve got a few extra hours in the airport, go exploring and find something new do to.  Ride the escalator with the kids or play an airport game.  Kids don’t have a concept of time, but they will know when mommy and daddy have stopped having a good time.

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