As more passengers head to the airport, airlines are struggling to keep up with demand, resulting in a chaotic summer travel season with thousands of delayed or canceled flights.
More than 5,800 flights within, departing from, or arriving in the U.S. were delayed on Wednesday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware, and another 600 flights were canceled.
The recent disruptions add to what has been a very rough summer for travelers, with more than 2,800 U.S. flights canceled over Memorial Day weekend and more than 3,000 scratched over the Father’s Day and Juneteenth long weekend.
So what should you do if your flight gets canceled? The Points Guy Founder Brian Kelly shared some tips on how to rebook quickly and secure your refund.
“If you need to get to where you're going immediately, pull out your phone and buy yourself a new ticket,” Kelly advised (video above). “The airline is probably not going to be able to rebook you. If you're going to wait in line for hours to be rebooked, then chances are any of the remaining seats will be snatched up.”
For reimbursement, Kelly warned it may be best to go through a credit card company because U.S. carriers "don't owe you anything" for canceled flights.
American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire credit cards “have what's called trip delay and cancellation coverage,” Kelly added. “So if you're disrupted, ... go to your credit card company to get reimbursed for hotels and rental cars and all those extra expenses.”
Trip protection has become a popular add-on for travelers amid a tumultuous travel season, but where you obtain that coverage is important, Kelly said.
“If you booked through Expedia and others, they're going to pass you around, and no one's going to take responsibility,” he cautioned. “Always decline their coverage to protect your trip.”
Kelly recommended travel coverage from independent online marketplace InsureMyTrip.com instead. "You can look at all the different policies, and you're going to get much better coverage at a cheaper price,” he said.
'Be prepared for disruptions'
Mass cancellations and delays are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, and airlines are blaming pilot shortages and understaffed air traffic control as two culprits.
“Going into this busy holiday travel weekend, airlines still don't have their footing," Kelly said. “People should be prepared for disruptions, and it's pretty much every airline.”
Despite efforts to improve reliability amid soaring demand, airlines have preemptively trimmed schedules this summer.
Delta cut about 100 flights per day in July while United axed about 50 flights a day from Newark Liberty International Airport starting July 1. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue also announced flight reductions.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projects a busy summer season, with passenger volumes that "will match and may occasionally exceed those of 2019 for the first time since the pandemic began."
Last Sunday, TSA screened more than 2.46 million people, the most air travelers in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. This coming weekend, 3.55 million people are expected to fly ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
“As long as that demand is high and planes are full, we’re going to continue to see these disruptions,” Kelly said. “The demand just continues to grow, and I don't see that stopping unless a big recession hits the U.S.”