How to prevent travel meltdowns — get advanced flight delay and cancellation data

Personal observation and your smartphone can help you get essential flight delay and cancellation data to help you prevent travel meltdowns.

American Airlines A319 landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Copyright © 2018 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.I often fly between Philadelphia and Los Angeles. A few years ago, when I went to the gate for my flight, I saw that the plane was already there and noticed a couple of trucks and quite a few ground crew under the plane. That experience taught me I could prevent travel meltdowns by backing up my experience with smartphone apps.

About five minutes after the scheduled time for boarding, I received a smartphone notification that the flight would board 45 minutes late. A few minutes later, the gate agent announced that. About 30 minutes later, while most passengers were buried in their laptops, cellphones, etc., my wife and I noticed the flight crew coming out of the gate door and walking away.

Personal observation and advanced notifications allowed me to continue my journey with little wasted time.

Get refunds in cash when airlines cancel your flightSeconds later, I dialed reservations while others were still oblivious. I got an agent within a minute or so. As I connected with her, I received a text notification that the flight was canceled. It popped up on her screen as she retrieved my reservations. A minute later, the gate agent announced the cancellation. Passengers who didn’t get a smartphone notification started scurrying to ticketing, customer service, or lining up at the gate agent’s station. Others were calling reservations like I did. They got to prevent travel meltdowns.

While we couldn’t get first-class seats (we had upgraded to first class on the original flight), with my quick call just before the cancellation was announced, we got a pair of exit row seats on the next flight out. We asked about our checked luggage. She said there was enough time to load it on our new flight. Our luggage did make it.

When trying to prevent travel meltdowns, calling airline reservations to rebook is a far better choice than waiting in line to get a new flight reservation.

When we went to the gate for our new flight, we saw some passengers from our original flight. They also phoned to get new reservations and told us that many on the flight, some who stood in line at the airport for an hour or more, couldn’t get a reservation until the following day.

Here are some lessons I think we can learn from my wife’s and my experience with that canceled flight on how to prevent travel meltdowns.

Always observe what’s happening with airline personnel at the gate and around your plane.

No plane at the gate:
I check real-time reports before getting to the gate, but when I get to the gate I always look to see if the plane has arrived. A missing plane close to boarding means the flight will be delayed or canceled.

Irritated by hotel resort fees?The ground crew working on the plane close to boarding:
If it’s close to boarding and you notice an abnormal number of ground crew at the plane, that should get your attention. It may mean the plane has mechanical problems and a flight delay or cancellation.

Flight crew leaving the plane:
If you see the entire flight crew leaving the plane, you can count on the flight being canceled or, at best, delayed for hours.

When you need to rebook due to a canceled or delayed flight:
Don’t waste your time standing in a long line before the gate agent unless you can be first or second in line. Don’t walk to ticketing or the customer service desk at the airport to rebook, where the wait will likely be extended. The airline may automatically rebook your flight, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, and often their choice isn’t satisfactory. When you’re at the airport, I’ve found that the best way to rebook is to call reservations on your cellphone, or if you get in line, simultaneously pull out your cell phone and call reservations. Use whoever you can speak with first.

Smartphone apps are precious for obtaining timely flight data in case of problems.

Use the airline’s, as well as third-party apps on your smartphone:
For travel in the twenty-first century, smartphones have become de rigueur. They are the best communication and data acquisition tools for travelers. When problems occur, you can immediately access information to fix them and quickly contact the airlines or other travel companies.

The airlines are increasingly good at sending timely notifications about their flights via their apps. Sometimes, third-party apps are even better. I recommend both. I typically get notifications on my smartphone before announcements are made at the airport about my flights. My smartphone gives me a head-start to fix problems that occur.

Many smartphone apps can help warn you that a flight delay or cancellation is likely and help prevent you from choosing a problematic flight before you make your reservation.

Install weather, airline, and inbound flight status apps on your smartphone.

Weather apps:
Snow, rain, icy conditions, tornadoes, and other weather problems can delay your flight or even cause it to be canceled. The weather at your starting airport isn’t the only weather that can affect your flight. The weather at your destination and at the airport from which the plane for your flight is coming is also essential. While many solid smartphone weather apps exist, my go-to weather app is Accuweather. Its accuracy, hour-by-hour forecasts, and ease of switching between cities are perfect for my travel needs.

Airline apps:
I always have the airline app for each airline I fly on my smartphone. It holds my boarding pass and alerts me to flight information, including delays. That said, I often find that the notifications from third-party apps are more timely than many airline apps.

Inbound flight status apps:
Knowing the flight status of the plane your flight will use can be a critical key in determining whether or not your flight will depart on time. If the plane used for your flight is delayed, your flight will likely be delayed or canceled. My go-to app for inbound flight status is FlightAware.

Flight arrival forecast apps can help you make good reservation decisions and provide monitoring to alert you in case of problems.

Flight arrival forecast apps:
When I make a reservation, I like to know that the odds are that my flight will be on time. My go-to flight arrival forecast app is Flighty. Shakespeare said, “What’s past is prologue.” I think he was right, and Flighty will give you prologue data, 60 days of your flight’s on-time performance. Once your reservation is made, you can check Flighty to see if your flight’s on-time performance substantially changes. Flighty also monitors your flights for 25 hours before your departure and will alert you in case of problems.

Join UsHaving a smartphone for travel these days is essential, and having the right apps on it can help you be aware of potential flight problems so you can quickly make changes, if necessary, to prevent your journey from derailing.

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