If you’re heading off for a holiday or business trip, chances are your flight will take off as planned. But there’s no need to wing it if an issue arises.
We have put together a collection of tips to guide travellers through the turbulence in the rare instances when flight schedules are disrupted.
The travel industry is accustomed to dealing with unexpected events and has generally been able to restore normal services quickly.
So, if an event arises and you’re not travelling in the next few days, don’t automatically rush in to change your plans. Depending on the reason for the disruption, you may find that you can travel as initially planned.
By waiting, you will also avoid the frustration of the inevitable lengthy on-hold queues that occur immediately after an event and, potentially, additional charges that may apply if you choose to amend a booking that is still months away.
2. Ask a travel agent – even if you booked online or direct with the airline
If you need to alter your plans or understand your options urgently, you don’t necessarily need to spend hours on hold waiting for someone to answer your call.
If you booked with a travel agent, phone the agent or shop directly, rather than a central call centre. Even if you didn’t book with an agent, help may be at hand.
During the October 2011 Qantas flight groundings, Flight Centre's stores throughout New Zealand were able to help travellers who had booked directly with the airline or with online travel agencies.
To help customers and other travellers at this busy time, the company worked throughout the weekend to ensure their customer’s got to where they needed to be.
If your flight plans are disrupted and you need to be home or at a meeting urgently, you’re not necessarily grounded. The solution may be as simple as switching to an alternative airline.
If there is a problem with a particular flight path, as was the case during the ash cloud disruptions in June 2011, talk to your agent because you may be able to travel from A to B, via C.
You may also be able to travel by alternative means, including charter flights, trains, buses, ferries or hire cars.
4. Check your travel insurance policy
While travellers typically take the time to read the fine print in their insurance policies when it comes to medical assistance, not as many are aware of their rights if flights are cancelled or delayed for extended periods.
Don’t assume that the airline will automatically accommodate you if it cancels or delays a flight. While this is generally the case, it pays to have a comprehensive travel insurance policy as a backup. Talk to a travel agent who can explain the details to you.
Historically, when an issue has arisen to temporarily disrupt travel plans, airlines have generally been willing to waive the booking amendment fees that would normally apply.
This has allowed travellers to either postpone their holidays and travel later or to switch to alternative destinations without incurring significant costs.
Charges can, however, increase substantially if you choose to cancel your plans altogether, which is generally the least common option for travellers.
If you’re thinking of cancelling or amending, it pays to weigh up the potential costs.
For more information, contact Flight Centre on 0800 24 35 44.