A delayed, canceled, or missed flight could make even the best-planned adventure fizzle. Do you have a tried-and-true method for making things right, or do you fly by the seat of your pants (so to speak)? Here are some thoughts on handling flight delays and cancelations.
Book plenty of connection time.
Monique Kasmauskis, Image Tours Inc. general manager, recommends booking plenty of connection time—as close to six hours as possible—and preferably a backup flight that same day, especially for international travel. “You have some extra work convincing the group that this is the best schedule, but once you explain that the risk of a shorter connection could mean missing a full day of their tour, people are willing to bring a good book and hope they have time to read it during their connection time.”
And travel insurance is a must. If the connection time isn’t enough to avoid a one-day delay, insurance coverage can help soften the disappointment. It also covers additional hotel, meal, and transportation costs while catching up with a tour, and the insurance assistance service may be able to help find rooms and provide information on transportation options—great assistance and stress relief to the travelers and the travel agent or tour operator.
Look for your options.
“When faced with flight delays, cancelations, or missed connections, sometimes there’s no magic trick—and operators do have to ‘fly by the seat of their pants,’” said David Matthews, Prime Tours president, who feels groups have an advantage over individuals when there’s a problem. Having a group leader from the tour company is key; with one gesture, the airline could help an entire group. “Tour operators can call the group desk while standing in line at the airport, or work with the gate agent. Once, an airline rep found me in line to tell me how they’re going to get the group back on track. None of the individuals had anyone coming to help them.”
Matthews recalls a connecting flight for an older group heading to Europe. “We were stuck on the tarmac for about two hours and couldn’t call ahead about our overseas flight. I told a flight attendant, who had the captain call. When we landed, the airline had fleet of golf carts at the gate and had our group deplane first. It looked like a presidential motorcade of golf carts racing through the terminals, and we made the flight. I was a hero, and that airline was heroic to me.” A good tour operator or director knows to look for options, and knows what they might be.
“Air travel is a key component of nearly every journey we offer,” said Luke Smith, manager, travel services air, People to People Ambassador Programs. With fifty years of experience addressing these issues, the company has accumulated helpful knowledge and best practices:
- Look for gateway cities with multiple flights and carriers offering daily service to the same destination. If things go wrong, you’ll have more options to get to your destination.
- Book longer layovers. With airlines reducing flights internationally, flights are fuller—and it could take days to get a large group onto another flight after a cancelation or delay. Longer layovers (up to six hours) provide a buffer to reduce missed connections.
- Book the fewest connections possible. Minimize risk by reducing the your delegations’ flights.
- Provide teacher leaders/group chaperones with emergency-use credit cards, so they could purchase food for students during an excessive layover, or assist with baggage fees if a student doesn’t have enough cash.
Written by: Click here to view the print version of the article by Amy L Charles, Groups Today editorial director.