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3 Steps to Resolving a Travel Delay – and Screaming “What the F*%@?” is Not One of Them!

The announcement was broadcast throughout the gate area: Flight #123 to Atlantic City has been cancelled. The initial reaction – disbelief. Then reality hits as the board is updated with C A N C E L L E D showing in big block letters. A collective “Oh No!” is heard amongst the passengers, or at least from most of them.

One lone passenger, standing along the wall while charging his phone, totally lost it. Screaming “What the F*%@?” loud enough for even the most deaf person to hear became his mantra. If he hadn’t gone through TSA security, I would have worried that he had a gun and would go postal.

Mr. Angry Pants storms off, ripping the phone from the wall that he forgot was plugged in. Other passengers for this cancelled flight, lined up at the agent’s desk for re-booking, became hushed and moved aside to let the storm cloud roll through.

Is this guy unique in his response to a travel issue? Hardly! Every day there are delayed or cancelled flights, traffic jams, hotel rooms that aren’t ready for you and a host of other intrusions to our hoped-for smooth travel plans.

Will having a meltdown resolve the issue? Hardly! Instead, this just makes the issue even worse.

Your blood pressure is off the charts, you’re stressed to the max, your friends and family hear all about it during each call you make to complain, you feel your day is totally ruined — and you still have not resolved the issue that started this chain of reactions!

So how do you turn what seems to be a total lose-lose situation into one that will get you moving forward with a sense of calm?

First – ask the question “What can I do?”

For example, in the situation above, you can answer with:

  • Stand here in line to get rebooked (knowing it may take an hour)
  • Get on the phone with the airline to get rebooked (while also standing in line in case you get to the agent at the counter before the one on the phone)
  • Go online via your mobile phone or laptop and see what other flights can get you to your destination (hint: use a travel booking website such as Travelocity or Orbitz to see a list of airlines that fly to that airport or a nearby airport and their departure times).
  • Ask the agent to put you on Flight # 456 from their airline or to book you on another airline altogether (because you now have the facts from your online search). The latter is more possible with the major airlines (Delta, American, United, etc.) and not so realistic with the discount airlines.
  • Ask the agent for what he or she would do in this circumstance. For example: “If you were heading home to be with your spouse on their birthday, and you haven’t seen him/her in two weeks, what would you do in this cancelled flight situation?” This is a great question to ask (in a calm manner, of course). The agent usually seems to go above and beyond in their quest to find you a solution when they’ve now felt a personal connection to the situation.
  • Ask the agent if they can rebook you for the next day so that you can: go back home, get some sleep overnight in a hotel, meet friends, etc… you get the idea.
  • Ask the agent for a food voucher so you can get something to eat.
  • Go to an airport store and buy a book, movie or other item to keep you occupied while you wait for your rescheduled flight.
  • Go to an airport restaurant and enjoy a nice relaxing meal and adult beverage.
  • Find out what other airport amenities are offered (massage, mini-suite for napping, workout facility, and more)
  • Continue to stand at the gate area cussing and screaming.

No matter what the travel situation, just start creating a list of all the possible things you can do. This in itself is calming, especially when you realize that you now have more than one option.

Second – Take all of your answers to the “What can I do?” question and start taking action. Once you’ve got a list of several things you can do, it’s now easier to plan your next step to make the best of the situation.

Third – Come up with ideas for how to remedy the situation at home, work or vacation that is adversely affected by the travel issue.

  • Tonight’s dinner reservation may be missed, but you’ll plan a surprise for the next day;
  • You may be late or miss a business meeting or your child’s parent-teacher meeting, but you can dial in remotely (connect via video is even better);
  • You may miss a day of a conference, so you’ll go through the list of exhibitors and be more selective of those you must see in person when you do arrive, and you’ll drop off a business card at others who you can connect with via email or phone.

This is not trying to minimize a travel interruption that causes you to miss an important event with family, be late for an important business meeting, or have other adverse impacts. The intent is to relay ways to assess the situation, consider a variety of solutions and make a negative situation better

… because loudly screaming “What the F*%@?” has not been shown to produce positive results.


To receive a free copy of our ebook, 70 Secrets to Safe Travel — Because Your Life Can Change in a Heartbeat, and for more travel savvy info to help you travel smarter, safer and with more enjoyment, visit SmartWomenTravelers.com and PearlsofTravelWisdom.com.

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