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What To Do if Your Flight is Cancelled

If you follow me on twitter, @MJTM, you would have noticed that I was away last week, and due to mechanical issues I was reminded of my ritual when a flight is canceled including the use of “Rule 240.”

I traveled to the mid-west and on the way back I had a connecting flight through Charlotte and then back to New York, however, the first leg of my flight was cancelled due to mechanical errors.  While I was upset that my day was going to be delayed I was excited that they found the mechanical while I was safely on the ground and not 30,000 feet in the air.

Steps to Take When Your Flight is Cancelled

Stay Calm

When life presents a speed bump, I often tell The Wife that I have very little interest in talking about how she feels about the speed bump.  I know that is a “men from mars” thing, but I want to start on a game plan how we are going to overcome the speed bump.

Call the Customer Service Hotline for Your Airline

When they announced the cancellation, I couldn’t believe what I saw.  Everyone huddled around that desk with the 2 annoyed airline employees like it was 1994.  Instead just get on your phone and call the 1-800 number.

By just providing them with my name and birthday, they saw the problem and offered me the next flight home on their airline.  Well that was 15 hours away and I hadn’t seen my 8 month old boy in 5 days so that was clearly unacceptable.  Then he found an open flight on a competitor which actually got me back to New York 10 minutes earlier with no layover.

As a Last Resort You Can Use Rule 240 When Your Flight is Cancelled

Don’t go dropping the “Rule 240” unless you are in a real bind.  A few years ago, my travel agent told me to drop the Rule 240 after a particularly bad argument with an airline employee.

What is Rule 240?

According to wikipedia,

Rule 240 is a term describing what individual airlines will do for late or stranded passengers, in the event of delays caused by airlines. The original rule, referring to a federal requirement before airline deregulation in 1978, is long-obsolete[1]; however, the major airlines have filed “conditions of carriage” with the U.S. Department of Transportation guaranteeing their similar provisions. These provisions vary from airline to airline, and generally apply only to delays that are absolutely the airline’s fault, such as mechanical delays, and not to “force majeure” events such as weather, strikes, or “acts of God”.

Rule 240 mandated that an airline facing a delayed or canceled flight had to transfer you to another carrier if 1) the second carrier could get you to your destination more quickly than the original line and 2) it had available seats.

Employees tend to tense up when you mention the rule so only use it if you have a particularly nasty airline employee.

Make Sure Your Bags Will Arrive

Most airlines will make arrangements for your luggage, but you should be aware of those arrangements.  You will have to provide your final destination so that they can deliver (usually within 24 hours) your luggage to you.

One should also understand the airline’s policy on replacing your items for a delay in your bag.

In my case my bag was at a different terminal, and I was heading home so I had my important items (i.e. laptop) with me, so I just let them take care of finding it and delivering it to my home.

Argue for Food!

If you are delayed for any reason other than weather you can usually argue for food vouchers to provide that you can eat while you are waiting.


Any other tips I am missing?



  1. Good stuff here. I didn’t know about the 240 rule, not that I will call on it, but nice to know you got something in your back pocket.

    Good call on hitting the 800 number. I don’t see any point in arguing at the desk over the speed bump. We have to just move on!

  2. Argue for food is a good one. It could save you that unexpected eating out expense. Which is, of course, about four times more than a normal eating out expense.

    • Ugh you are so right! I went to grab a quick burger at a fast food place…$4.50 later I was annoyed but full lol

  3. Or vouchers. If you didn’t have an 8 month old at home. Waiting 15 hours, while exploring a city could be worth it, if you get a flight voucher. I’ve done that before willingly for a free flight somewhere else.

    • I have ALWAYS wanted to take advantage…The Wife says no to me each time. This past time I was alone, and couldn’t do it when they offered on the way out since I was going for business.

  4. I got stranded in Chicago over night once due to weather (so I was out of luck on the airline doing anything for me) I had missed my connection by like 3 mintues!! Anyways, I pricelined a hotel for that night and got it SO MUCH cheaper than anyone around me who simply called the hotel and booked room.And if you just start talking to other passengers around you, you will hear horror stories so bad that you will be thankful for your own situation. That always helps me. I think “Well… at least I’m not THAT lady! She’s got it bad.”

  5. Some great tips… especially the 1-800 # for the airline. Beyond asking for food, I’d ask for more… after all, they might only say no and you’re no further behind.

  6. great tips, rule 240 is an eye opener, thanks for the tips. I had my flights cancelled twice in life. And airlines paid for stay, food and even laundry. of-course they were both international flights.

  7. I’ve fought for food coupons a few times! Traveling can be painful when things like that happen, but yes I’d much rather be alive and on the ground too than up in the air in a broken airplane! -Sydney

  8. Wow I never knew about this rule 240, thanks for the ammo! I actually have never called the airline either, Im always one of the people huddled around the counter.

  9. good tips man – i also use the FAA guidelines on them which indicates a delay of 2 hrs or more deserves 1/2 of ticket price to be refunded, with a 3.5+ hr delay (i believe) results in a full refund


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