Southwest cancellations: What to do if flight is canceled?

As travelers continue to be impacted by thousands of flight cancellations, many are wondering what they can do when their plans go awry.

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The Associated Press reported that passengers need to stay calm and know their rights.

First, if you’re at the airport, go right to the airline agent’s desk, CNN reported. First come, first served. Also, multitask — call the help desk while you’re standing in line. You can also use the self-serve kiosk.

Be nice, but be persistent, CNN suggests.

If you still want to get to your destination, then airlines will most likely rebook you for free on the next available flight if seats are available. But make sure you know what the deadlines and timeframes are. If you’re outside of the window set by the airline, then you may have to pay extra.

If you want to cancel the trip, you can and you are entitled to a full refund, even if your tickets were non-refundable. You can also get your money back for bag fees, seat upgrades and other extras.

You don’t have to settle for a voucher for future travel. You can get your money back instead. But if you opt for the voucher, make sure you know about blackout dates and other restrictions, the AP reported.

You can ask to fly on a different airline if seats are available, but airlines are not required to fulfill the request. But make sure you do your research and know what is available and give the agents options. Also, look at alternative airports that are near the original destination.

Keep in mind that while airlines in some cases will give free hotel vouchers or other compensation, they are not required to do so. Several companies offer accommodations though, so you should ask.

Plan ahead and keep an eye on your flight’s status before leaving for the airport. That way, you won’t get stranded. You can also sign up for free text alerts when you buy your ticket and download the air carrier’s app, CNN reported.

If you’ve called the airline and are in hold purgatory, try calling the airline’s international help desk, the AP reported. The international help desk can also make changes to domestic flights. If you are traveling with someone who is a frequent flyer, use the number of the person who has the higher status.

If you have booked through a third-party company such as Expedia, you have to work with that company, not the airline, to get rerouted, CNN reported.

If you have purchased travel insurance, your trip may be covered, depending on how long you were delayed. Also, make sure to save all receipts of airport purchases so they can be refunded later, CNN reported. The only caveat is that these expenses must be “reasonable,” not high-end hotels, expensive meals or alcohol, CNN reported.

In the future, plan on nonstop flights and morning flights, or don’t fly on busy days. If you’re worried about getting to the airport on time for the early morning flights, stay in a hotel connected to the airport, the AP reported. When a storm is looming, plan ahead and when an airline offers the chance to change plans before a storm hits, take it up on the offer, CNN reported.

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