The Best Ways To Protect Yourself Against Airline Cancellations

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Some of the major U.S. airlines have experienced quite a bit of turbulence lately.

In recent months, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have all gone through widespread cancellations that affected tens of thousands of passengers.

American blames the weather and a shortage of available crew members for mass cancellations in late October. Spirit flights were affected by “adverse weather conditions … combined with airport staffing shortages and crew dislocations,” the carrier says.

And in response to what it says are the same type of problems, Southwest is reportedly reducing its capacity for December.

5 Steps You Can Take To Avoid a Flight Cancellation

Because these circumstances have put the airline industry in such flux, you may be wondering how you can protect yourself against the possibility of a canceled flight.

In this article, I’ll detail the steps you need to take to avoid flight cancellations, according to money expert Clark Howard.

Book Flights That Depart Early in the Day

Clark recommends that you book flights that are scheduled early in the day, “Because when problems happen, it cascades throughout the day,” he says. “Once you get past about three in the afternoon, an airline is no longer able to recover what they call ‘schedule integrity.’”

“The earlier flights of the day give you more flexibility in terms of how you’re going to get to where you’re going,” Clark says.

Here’s how to save money based on when you book a flight.

Use a Credit Card for Flight Interruption Coverage

It’s also important to book your flight with a credit card that includes flight interruption coverage, also known as travel insurance.

While you can buy travel insurance on a website such as InsureMyTrip, Clark advises that you book your fare on a credit card that already has the coverage included.

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Clark says there are certain credit cards that will provide you with flight interruption coverage as a part of their benefits.

One example of a credit card with trip insurance is the Chase Ink Business Preferred, which includes reimbursement up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares and tours.

Some other credit cards that include flight interruption coverage are:

Here are the best credit cards for travel.

Check Your Flight Regularly

In the days and weeks — and even hours — ahead of your trip, you should periodically check on your flight to see if its departure time (or even date) has changed.

“You need to get online and make sure your flight is as it originally was when you booked,” Clark says. “If you don’t like what they’ve put you on as an alternative …  try to get back to a flight that’s good and comfortable for you.”

Keep the Airline App on Your Phone

Clarks considers airline apps to be must-haves these days.

“Have the airline app on your phone that you’re flying so that in the event there’s a problem with your flight, you’re not standing in some stupid line or trying to call a phone number they’re going to answer next week,” he says.

“You want to use the app to try to rebook yourself because that gets you to the front of the line and is the most efficient way for you to find another routing,” Clark says.

Here are the mobile apps for some major airlines:

Here are several ways to reach Customer Service at the top airlines.

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Fly an Airline That Has ‘Cushion’

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some airlines have gotten better than others in keeping “cushion” — backup crews and planes — in their operations. 

Clark says it used to be customary for airlines to keep a cushion in case there was a logjam or other problem. That hasn’t always been the case during the pandemic, but he points to one airline as an exception.

“Delta has maintained spare aircraft, flight attendants and pilots. That’s known as a ‘hot spare’ in the industry, where you have a plane that’s ready to go with a crew on standby. And so they are in the best position.”

After sorting its problems in early November, Southwest also has a cushion, Clark says.

Final Thoughts

Clark says the one recourse that airline passengers are sorely missing is Rule 240, which put the onus on the carriers to find itineraries for those people whose flights get canceled.

“It’s something that I believe the U.S. Congress should put back into law,” Clark says. “And what it did was, if an airline canceled your flight, regardless of reason, they then had to buy you a seat on another airline to get you to where you were going.”

Clark says that needs to change because the current system treats airline customers “like chopped liver.”

More Resources From Clark.com:

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