A Cancelled Flight and Exhausting 18 Hour Day

Image result for airline stock photo

Airlines additionally always want to try and at least get their plane to an airport they have a hub at due to paying large fees to the airport for using the gate and space. Other planes depend on the gates

Airlines additionally always want to try and at least get their plane to an airport they have a hub at due to paying large fees to the airport for using the gate and space. Other planes depend on the gates

Today is story day! I thought I might share my experience from my last trip of returning from Munich to the US and the exhausting day I had figuring out what options are were available to me in case something like this ever happens to you!

The Delay

Munich has a fairly easy airport to get to about 40 minutes from the city center. I had taken the S1 Train from the Munich station for my flight home. I would be flying on Delta for the first time and was excited to see how their service compared to KLM and Air France. I had heard great things about them.

Check in went smoothly as did security. When traveling out of any European Union country to a non-EU country, you have to remember that your passport is going to be stamped by immigration officers. Ensure you allow enough time in case the line is long. I waited about 15 minutes on a Friday morning.

The problems began during the boarding process. With Munich’s airport, planes departing for the US have to be parked a certain distance away from the gate in a secured location. In this case, they required a bus to reach the plane. We were told there was a small issue with the aircraft that was going to delay the flight time about 15-20 minutes. The gate agent decided to board us anyway.

We reached the plane, found our seats and relaxed as we waited for the delay to pass. 15 minutes later, there was still no update on the situation; having worked for an airline myself I knew these things can’t be rushed. The problem lied with the lack of notification of the passengers. Having my phone on me, I checked to Delta app to see what the scheduled departure time was scheduled to be.

It showed an hour late. I was a little worried as I already had a tight connection in Delta’s hub airport of Atlanta, one of the world’s busiest airports. You need at least 2 hours transit time just to be safe to clear customs, immigration and change terminals. I did a little research and found if I missed my connection at least I would be able to get the next flight out. I will say I love that Delta’s app will automatically rebook you on the next available flight if there are any issues.

Continuing to monitor the situation, we finally had our first announcement 45 minutes into the wait that the issue with the plane was mechanical and that they were going to try restarting all the plane systems. There was going to be an additional hour delay. We had no air on the plane and the passengers were rightfully hot and antsy. The flight crew jumped into action and made such the passengers had snacks and drinks. They had no information themselves, but were very reassuring to the passengers.

Checking my phone again, the time continued to change every half an hour. At three hours we finally had the APU (auxilary power unit) running to bring us some much needed AC to the cabin. If a delay goes longer than two and a half hours on a long-haul flight, odds are that your flight is going to be cancelled. This is usually due to the restrictions on the cabin crew rest. The crew is not allowed to work over a certain amount of hours. I had a sinking feeling the delay was going to cause a cancellation.

I sent out a twitter message to Delta to ask about possible rebooking options out of Munich in the event of a cancellation. They reassured me if it was cancelled I would be taken care of. What I was really looking for was a list of alternative flight options that they would be able to rebook me on.

The Cancellation

It was 1 p.m. when the pilot came onto the intercom and finally announced that the flight was going to be cancelled. The part they needed to repair the plane was not something they had in Munich. The pilot was apologetic and explained the gate agents were waiting for us to see them about hotels or other rebooking options.

I wasn’t the only angry passenger. We had been sitting on the plane for over 4 hours and we had asked multiple times if we might be able to get off the plane and wait by the gate area. The problem with that was the busses that were required to take us back from the plane to the gate; there were apparently none available until the flight was actually cancelled. When I deplaned I made sure to thank the flight crew. They did a great job remaining calm and passing on any information they had.

We reached the gate and were required to have our passports to go through immigration again in order to see a gate agent at the counter. It was extremely lucky that I only had a carry on bag because all the other passengers had to wait at baggage claim for their bags to arrive to pick them up before proceeding to the check in area. I walked fast to try and get to the front of the line as quickly as I could.

I was about 6th in line. By 1:45 p.m. an announcement was made that they would have a flight out the next morning and we needed to wait in line to find out about hotel accommodations. I knew, however, from my twitter conversation about other booking options. I started another direct message to the Delta customer service while I was in line and was able to get on a direct flight out that left two hours later on Lufthansa.

The twitter service was excellent as they had rebooked me and reissued my ticket before I was at the front of the line. I spoke to the gate agents anyway just to confirm I didn’t need any additional documentation and was advised to go quickly to the Lufthansa terminal clear on the other side of the airport.

The Best Outcome

I sprinted and am sure I had a few funny looks as I made my way to the Lufthansa ticket counter. I needed to be checked in before the flight closed. If you are ever rebooked on another airline, there is never a guarantee that you will be on the flight until you are holding a confirmed ticket in your hand. Other airline systems to not always communicate to one another (as I know from working myself as a gate agent).

Lufthansa initially had a few problems finding me in their computer system. I made sure I had the flight number and a confirmation number to give them showing the rebooking. Once I was issued a ticket, I was advised I had 30 minutes to make it through security, immigration and find the gate. I was once again lucky that I didn’t check any bags otherwise I wouldn’t be on a flight. The bag wouldn’t make it through security in time.

By 4 p.m. I was exhausted, but was ecstatic to be flying home the same day and landing only 30 minutes later than I was supposed to be arriving if I were going through Atlanta. Lufthansa was an fantastic carrier to travel on and had an excellent crew. It was my first time traveling on the monster double decker A-380. I slept so well on the 12 hour flight home.

What You Need to Know

If you are on a flight that has been cancelled, don’t panic! Social media can be a huge asset if you are stuck waiting in line. Sometimes the airline phone lines will be tied up with other passengers. Always have a tablet, phone or other device that can connect to the internet if you are able to. Try not to check any bags if you are able to.

Second, you can receive some compensation if you are in the EU. going to the EU or are traveling on an EU carrier. Everything depends on the delay or the situation, but your carrier is supposed to give you the option of rebooking and accommodations (if required) or refund if you request it. You can Google the exact rules. Save all your receipts and e-mails. In my case, Delta was proactive and issued me a credit to use on a future flight as well as giving me a direct option. I was thrilled and didn’t want to ask for anything else.

If you do decide to ask for compensation, be polite. The airline will need to know exactly what you want. Responses may take a few days. E-mail is usually the best way to contact them. Please note that not all delays will receive compensation, for example, weather delays do not count. If your airplane has a mechanical problem it’s another story.

Situations like these happen and it can be difficult to remain calm, but do your best. You will receive the best treatment if you do. Delta/Air France/KLM was fantastic with their outreach and their customer service and is my new favorite airline. I will definitely be trying to fly them as much as possible! Hope this helps you. Happy travels!