My recent vacation in Costa Rica was perfect. The weather, the activities, the company … everything was stellar.
And then I boarded my plane in San Jose for my flight home. That’s when things started going wrong. I’ll get into the details at a later date, but suffice to say that the flight was canceled, and all 130+ passengers (which included one baby and one dog) were stranded in Costa Rica. Most of use were stuck for the night, and a good percentage of us were delayed yet another day once we finally got stateside. All told, I arrived home 48 hours later toting two flight vouchers and a ridiculously awesome story.
What I learned during the those two days, though, was priceless. If you’re ever caught in the same situation I was in, here are a few tips to help you survive your flight cancellation:
Know your rights.
That is to say, know the few rights that actually exist. There were all kinds of rumors circulating while I was stuck in Costa Rica about what we, as passengers, were entitled to. According to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are no federal requirements that airlines compensate passengers in the event of a flight delay or cancellation. Every airline has its own policy regarding how passengers will be compensated for the inconvenience. In other words, be thankful for what you do get when your flight is canceled, and know that you need to plan well enough to deal with other expenses (such as hotel reservations, car rentals or other flights) you’ve invested in at your final destination. This is where travel insurance comes in handy.
Don’t get angry.
Trust me, the airline didn’t want to cancel your flight. Whether it’s due to bad weather or mechanical problems, having to cancel a flight is a royal pain in the butt for airlines. Mounds of paperwork, tons of logistical issues and a ridiculous amount of money all go in to getting the problem resolved as quickly as possible. It’s also important to realize that the people working at the gate are doing what they can to get information to you. They don’t have all of the answers, and they are not necessarily able or obligated to give you anything and everything you ask for. Remaining patient and saying “please” and “thank you” will go a long way in getting you on a plane as soon as possible.
Have clothes to spare.
I pack light, and I’d stunk up my three t-shirts the week prior as I toured around Costa Rica. On my extra night in Costa Rica, I had to do an emergency wash cycle in my bathroom sink so that I had something to wear the next day. This wasn’t a big deal for me as I often do sink laundry when I travel, but if you need clean clothes to feel comfortable, make sure you pack an extra shirt and a couple extra pairs of underwear just in case you get stuck somewhere due to a flight cancellation.
Commiserate and bond.
This is not a personal attack on you. You aren’t the only person going through the flight cancellation. We learned that the best way to deal with the situation was to make the best of it by getting to know our fellow passengers and turning the negative experience into a positive one. Our group of passengers bonded with each other over happy hour, had a variety show once our flight finally reached cruising altitude and set up a Facebook fan page so that we could share photos, videos and memories about the good things about being stranded in Costa Rica together.
Have you ever been on a canceled flight? What other tips helped you pull through the situation?