Getting There BETTER | Flight Delayed? Cancelled? Talk to airline customer servicer faster with this trick.
You love the idea of travel — fabulous vacations, visits to the grandparents, a mid-winter business trip to warm climates — but travel kind of sucks, right? Brutal lines. Checked bag fees. TSA “special” pat downs. Middle seats in the way back. Expensive, inflexible tickets. Hotel rooms with views of the parking lot. Torture. But, really, it doesn’t have to. There are a few, genuinely simple things you can do to make it much, much better. So follow along and get there better.
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Flight Delayed? Cancelled? Talk to airline customer servicer faster with this trick.

Have you ever called an airline and been told that the wait was 2 hours? And you’re stuck somewhere in an airport or hotel and just want to get home?

American Airline flight delays

The ominous notification of rolling flight delays

When weather hits major airline hubs, things go bad FAST. Whether it’s spring thunderstorms in Dallas, blizzards in Chicago or multi-day fog in San Francisco, the airline call centers simply aren’t staffed up to handle the volume of people calling in crisis with cancelled flights, missed connections, and unexpected overnights on airport floors. There are hundreds of people in line at the airports and 3 hour waits on the phones.

How do rise above and get to your destination faster than anyone else? Use these tricks!
  1. Act quickly to marshall your resources and find a quiet place to work, ideally someplace with power and internet access. Time is very much of the essence — you’re fighting with hundreds or thousands of people trying to solve the same problem and the longer you wait, the fewer options you have.
  2. Know your options. Use Expert Flyer to do the research quickly and consider all alternatives — try to familiarize yourself with Expert Flyer before you travel when you’re not in crisis. If you understand the basics of the codes, its easy to use and updates real-time so you know all your alternative flight choices. If possible, have a few viable options because inventory disappears quickly in times of system stress. If Expert Flyer doesn’t suit you, you can also try by using the airline website or Google Flights to see what flights are still for sale – a good indication of possible inventory – but that’s a less reliable and slower option.
  3. Don’t agree to the airline’s new flight options unless it’s a good fit. Most airlines now have automatic rebooking systems that find you some available inventory that’s convenient for them. You do not have to accept this unless it’s a good choice for you — if you find a better option, you can easily call and have them make that change for you. However, those seats are on hold for you so don’t reject it online — make sure you’ve confirmed your better choice before you reject anything.
  4. Call, don’t wait in line. The call centers and in-airport service centers/agents are all working with the same inventory – the trick to getting new seats is getting them quickly. There’s nothing quick about standing in line. Similarly, if you’re on the plane when major flight delays kick in, don’t wait to deplane befor finding alternatives — call the customer service lines as soon as you can. Which is why this next point is so critical . . .
  5. Call the international call centers, not the US one. This is the trick that gets you home. All major airlines have international call centers that support their international operations. When it’s a whiteout in Chicago, it’s sunny in Mexico City and nobody is overwhelming the Mexican call center so they’ll pick up on the second ring (well, after a phone tree or two). They can do everything the domestic centers can — and since you followed step 2, you know exactly what to ask for.

How do you call the international call centers? I’ve typically used Skype — add the app to your phone — and if you’re flying a particular airline frequently, program a few of their international phone numbers into your phone or Skype so you don’t have to search for them when you’re unexpectedly stuck. Minutes matter here – I can’t emphasize that enough.

Keep call center hours in mind when you’re calling and make sure to include country codes when dialing.

Here are the international numbers for the US major airlines:

Alaska Airlines (scroll down the page to find the int’l numbers)
American Airlines
United Airlines
Southwest (look for Mexico number)

I had to take my own advice when my flight was delayed and then cancelled out of the Dominican Republic recently – I was one of the few who got home that night. Next time you get a flight cancellation text or are stuck during a storm, you know what to do to get to your destination BETTER!


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