Go-To Guide for Rebooking Cancelled Flights: Part 3

We reviewed a number of tactics to remember the next time you have to rebook a cancelled flight.

Guide to Rebooking Cancelled Flights: Part 1

Guide to Rebooking Cancelled Flights: Part 2

Here are some more weather-related and airport logistics tips.

7) Choose connections that are connected airside - Avoid terminal changes

If you live in a smaller city, get to know your closest hubs intimately. Most savvy travelers know that terminal changes at JFK or LAX (or even IAD) can be a nightmare, with huge security delays and lots of walking. Other airports are fully connected airside (within security), which makes them comparative dreams to transit since you don’t have to add in extra time for unforeseen delays. It also means you’re more likely to make your connection. Typically this isn’t a problem with hubs and a mainline aircraft as your connection will likely be in the same terminal, but regional jets may be housed in a commuter terminal requiring a bus transfer or reclining security. AA and US are likely to be a mess as they integrate operations. Typically airport changes are also a non-starter since most phone agents will have no conception of the travel time between them, only that it technically satisfies the minimum connection time.

Pro Tip: Before you commit to an itinerary (or a rebooked one), pull up an airport map and make sure that you’re not getting shoved into a commuter terminal requiring a bus connection or reclearing security. Begin to know your most frequently transited airports (like walking over to see your non-preferred carriers operations for that inevitable time when you switch your business to them in a year or two).

8) Weather at your departure, connecting and arrival airport should be handled differently


For instance, let’s say you had a flight cancelled for mechanical reasons going through Detroit. I would strongly push for a connection through Minneapolis or Seattle over Atlanta to get from the east coast to the west (or vice versa).

In my case in the intro, the weather was at SFO and entire banks of flights were getting cancelled coming into it, so no matter where I flew from ORD, there was a pretty slim chance I’d actually end up in SFO that night, likely getting stuck in Denver, LAX or Seattle. If arrival weather is bad, consider cutting your losses and flying the next day. If you’re trying to make work on Monday and the weather is at your destination airport, people will likely understand and many may have also been delayed, spending the night in the airport.

Conversely, if weather is bad at your departure airport, time is of the essence and getting out as soon as possible can avoid hours of strife waiting until the grounding alerts are lifted. This is where same day confirm and standby can work in your favor, getting you onto an early flight that actually makes it out. I would even consider paying to fees to escape a hurricane or snowmageddon. Many airlines will issue travel waivers allowing free changes for flights in the line of fire in the lead up to a bad storm. Be proactive.

It also make sense to look at weather conditions over the next few hours. Some airports are known for short intense front-driven weather patterns (DEN, East Coast) which clear quickly, while others (Midwest, IAH) can have lingering mega-storms that shut down operations for a long time. I know which connection I’d favor. Rain vs. Snow is also a factor, so keep an eye on the temperature. 40 is safer than 33 degrees.

Lastly, monitor airport conditions and other delay and cancellation patterns to see trends. If American just cancelled all of their flights into or out of an airport, there’s a high chance United or Delta will follow suit very soon, so it may be better to prioritize a hotel over waiting in the line at the other carrier.

Pro Tip: Adapt your strategy based on whether the inclement weather is at your departure, connecting or arrival airport, what kind of weather it is, where it’ll be in a few hours and whether carriers are making “across the board” decisions that will affect many/all flights into and out of an airport.

9) Weather does not make the airlines obligated to pay to overnight you in a hotel

Remember that airlines are not obligated to put you up in a hotel if your flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather or other “acts of god”. So, I avoid that possibility whenever I can, but if you’re flying late and the weather looks iffy, choose a connection with a lot of airport hotel options, or even better - with a hotel connected to it. This can be invaluable if you get in at midnight and have a connecting flight at 5 or 6AM the next morning.

Pro Tip: If your last flight out is cancelled, time is of the essence to book overnight accommodations. Use Hotel Tonight or call the properties as soon as your know you need a room and ask for a “distressed passenger rate.” This will get you ahead of the numerous travelers waiting in line only to be told by the airline they are on their own for the night. Getting rebooked on the soonest possible flight is important, but not at the expense of sitting at the airport and not sleeping. If you have more than one person in your party, divide and conquer.


I wanted to pull together a set of heuristics to use when plans go awry during peak periods or inclement weather. There is no single “best connecting airport” and many of these decisions have to be made at the split second with an agent on the phone or at the airport. Knowing these contingencies will allow you ask the right questions (“Is that a confirmed seat?” “Is that on mainline United?” “You know both American and United have cancelled most of their flights out of ORD right? Let’s look at another airport”) and decide among choices under pressure.

What do you consider when rebooking flights? Comment below!

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