A man in a winter coat looks at an LED board of departure times in an airport

What Happens if Your Flight Gets Cancelled Before Your Tour?

Picture this: you’re about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. The visas are sorted, the itinerary is ready, and you can’t wait to hit the ground running on a group tour in a new country. You’ve done everything right, but then the unthinkable happens: all of a sudden, the word cancelled is flashing beside your flight number! It’s every traveller’s worst nightmare, but is it really the end of the world? Read on for our guide to a very important question: what happens if your flight gets cancelled before your tour?

What to do at the airport if your flight is cancelled

First thing’s first: don’t panic. Stay calm and get in contact with your tour leader as soon as possible, to let them know that you’ll be delayed or that there’s been a change in your plans. Most likely they’ll give you advice about what to do next, and assure you that not all hope is lost!

If you can, ask an airline representative about your chances of being booked on the next flight out. While they won’t always be able to accommodate you, you’ll never know if you don’t ask. Some airlines have a policy of rebooking all passengers on other available flights. While you may be arriving later than planned, you’ll still get there!

An ovular airport gate that reads "F49" in an airport at sunrise
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is wait at your gate | ⓒ Peter Bucks/Unsplash

Many airlines make an effort to reschedule cancelled flights where possible or pay for accommodation if you’re far from home. Note that many of these extras are only immediately available when the delay or cancellation is the airline’s fault: if it’s a case of weather, politics, or employee strike, many airline policies state they have no obligation to reimburse passengers.

With that being said, make sure you ask for extra accommodations if you need it! If you’re friendly but clear and direct, you’d be surprised at what airlines will do to assist you.

Tip: if the gate is swarming with unhappy travellers, sometimes it’s better to call the airline directly. Make sure you have your flight number and booking reference handy and inform them of the situation.

A man in a winter coat looks at an LED board of departure times in an airport
Flight cancellations can be stressful, but they don’t spell the end of your tour! | ⓒ Anete Lusina/Unsplash

Your rights with flight cancellations

Contrary to popular belief, airlines are not legally required to reimburse passengers in the event of a cancelled flight. However, that’s not to say you’re out of luck! Most airlines make it a point to assist passengers when they’re forced to cancel flights. If it seems like you won’t be receiving any compensation or assistance in booking a new flight, still reach out to the airport’s customer service line and let them know that you’ve had a negative experience. Airlines know that happy customers will become repeat customers, and, even if they can’t or won’t compensate you, you may be surprised at what they can offer you instead.

Insurance and flight cancellations

Some travel insurance policies cover flight cancellations but note that many basic policies won’t provide this coverage. Especially when force majeure, or a natural event out of the airline’s control such as a storm, comes into play, it can be difficult to find a policy that will protect you in case of a sudden flight cancellation.

While coverage varies between providers and policies, TourRadar always recommends World Nomads for travel insurance. Coverage is available for overseas medical evacuation, lost baggage, adventure activities, and trip cancellations. Make sure you know your policy backwards and forwards.

An older man in a pink shirt asleep on a set of gangchairs in an airport
Be patient: if you can’t be booked on the next flight out, the one after that may work | ⓒ Jay Wen/Unsplash

How to make the most of a bad situation 

Just because your flight is cancelled doesn’t mean you won’t be able to take that dream trip! While you may not be arriving as planned, try to keep your tour leader informed of the situation, and they can very often assist you, even before your new flight takes off. Whether it involves figuring out transportation to a different city to meet up with the group, arranging a new meet-up time later in the day, or any number of other solutions, your tour leader’s job is to make sure you have a great experience from start to finish!

Our top tips

  • Contact your tour leader immediately, and keep them updated at every turn.
  • If the airline doesn’t seem to be offering compensation or help, ask! You never know what airlines are willing to provide passengers.
  • Make sure you have your travel insurance handy, and, if you’re worried about flight cancellations in advance, see if you can find a policy that includes “cancel for any reason” coverage, just in case.
  • Stay calm! Finding a solution may be easier than you think.
Several United Airlines planes waiting at gates at an airport
You never know what an airline will give you until you ask | ⓒ Jason Leung/Unsplash

No matter what the situation – be it a natural disaster, airline mishap, or political issue – flight cancellations before your tour can be the difference between a relaxing start and a nightmare. Just remember that there’s still a way to make it to your destination, and, with the help of airline staff and your tour leader, there’s always hope!

Has your flight ever been suddenly cancelled? How did things turn out? Let us know!

Maggie is a life-long traveller with a special affinity for the United Kingdom. When she's not reading, writing, or dreaming about her next trip, you can find her talking at length about her dog to anyone who'll listen.

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