The East African - - THE MAGAZINE -

FNY Times light can­cel­la­tions and de­lays can leave travellers feel­ing hap­less and help­less. Weather and mechanical de­lays of­ten leave pas­sen­gers won­der­ing what, if any, re­course they have. And while you are typ­i­cally at the mercy of the air­line, there are a few tips for mit­i­gat­ing the pain.

Bad weather is not your friend, es­pe­cially when it comes to de­lays and can­cel­la­tions. While airlines may of­fer to pay for ho­tel and meals dur­ing an overnight de­lay when the rea­son is the air­line’s fault — mechanical prob­lems, for ex­am­ple — they typ­i­cally will not do so when the rea­son is weather-re­lated. Be pre­pared to fend for your­self. Use the air­line’s app, call the cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber or speak to a gate agent to fig­ure out your op­tions. Flight sched­ules are not guar­an­teed and in coun­tries such as the US, by law, airlines are not obliged to pro­vide any com­pen­sa­tion for de­lays or can­cel­la­tions — even when it is their fault.

The other ex­cep­tion is if you are in­vold­e­nied board­ing, oth­er­wise known as get­ting “bumped” from a flight, which of­ten re­sults from air­line over­book­ing. If this hap­pens to you and the air­line can­not ar­range to get you to your des­ti­na­tion within an hour of your orig­i­nal ar­rival time, it is re­quired un­dre US law to com­pen­sate you in cash, up to $1,350, de­pend­ing on the length of the de­lay.

Two more important notes: When a gate agent asks for vol­un­teers to take a later flight in exchange for a voucher and you ac­cept, you will not be en­ti­tled to ad­di­tional com­pen­sa­tion.

One ex­cep­tion to the bumped-pas­sen­ger com­pen­sa­tion rule is if you did not check in to your flight on time (dif­fer­ent car­ri­ers have dif­fer­ent cut­offs). You should get into the habit of check­ing in the day be­fore your flight. (You will typ­i­cally get an e-mail from the air­line prompt­ing you to do so.)

You will need a con­sid­er­able amount of in­for­ma­tion to col­lect on your claim, in­clud­ing proof of round-trip travel, your old itin­er­ary, your new itin­er­ary, credit card state­ments and re­ceipts for ex­penses in­curred. Keep itemised re­ceipts for meals, and don’t ex­pect to be re­im­bursed for al­co­hol or gra­tu­ities.

Send­ing credit card state­ments is an an­noy­ance, as they some­times won’t post for weeks af­ter you have made a pur­chase. Some peo­ple put off fil­ing a claim un­til their state­ments are posted and for­get to fol­low through — which is ex­actly what in­surance com­pa­nies bank on.

Do not make that mis­take: You can file your claim im­me­di­ately, even if you do not have all the sup­port­ing doc­u­ments. You can sub­mit them later, pro­vided it is in within the re­quired time frame.

You will need a state­ment from your com­mon car­rier stat­ing the rea­son for the de­lay — again, not the most con­ve­nient thing to ob­tain.

Write the air­line’s cus­tomer ser­vice e-mail ad­dress to re­quest ver­i­fi­ca­tion of why your flight was de­layed or can­celled. It may take one or two fol­low-up e-mails, but they should oblige.

Fi­nally, per­sis­tence is the key with col­lect­ing on in­surance claims. Pho­to­graph re­ceipts and take screen­shots of board­ing passes. Fol­low up.

Think you de­serve com­pen­sa­tion for some­thing? Ask for it. The point is: While you may get turned down, you should al­ways (po­litely) ask for what you think you de­serve.

Air­line cus­tomer ser­vice is a stress­ful job, and the vast majority of em­ploy­ees do their best to get pas­sen­gers where they need to go in a timely man­ner. So when it is your turn at the desk, take a deep breath, smile and re­mem­ber that the per­son you are speak­ing to did not per­son­ally cause that main­te­nance is­sue — or thun­der­storm.

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