We started our 9 day trip to Europe in probably the worst possible way. Sitting in our business class seats getting ready for a red-eye flight to Dublin,
we waited for about 3 hours for the ground crew to fix a sensor for the airplane door, and then the entire flight ended up being canceled. At midnight local time, there was really nothing to do. Given the late hour and since Boston is not an Aer Lingus hub, there was no staff still in the airport, and after being given hotel vouchers and a bus to a local hotel, they told us to call the toll-free customer service number at 8:30 the next morning
This being my first real experience with major irregular operations (IRROPS), there were some things I thought I handled well as well as some mistakes. Today let’s focus on 5 things I did well during my flight’s IRROPS
1. Being proactive
If you wait to get whatever the airlines assign you, you’re probably not going to get something that works very well for you. Remember, the staff that are trying to help you are probably working overtime trying to deal with you and the 300 other people that were on your canceled flight.
In my case, at 1 a.m. they gave us a paper with the toll-free customer service number and told us to call at 8:30 a.m. I called immediately (just to check if they were open), and while they were closed, I did hear that the phone lines opened at 8:00, not 8:30. So I knew that if I waited to call at 8:30, I’d be behind anyone who tried to call earlier.
2. (Trying to) be first
Remember, in the extreme case of a canceled flight, EVERYONE is trying to get rebooked, and time is of the essence. As soon as I heard that the flight was canceled, I tried to get off of the plane as soon as possible. I was thinking that we might be looking at getting rebooked right away, but when we got out into the terminal, it became clear that there wasn’t any staff available to do that.
Still, trying to be near the front of the line (without being pushy / super aggressive) got us the first choice of hotel (300 people quickly filled up the Sheraton), and sitting near the front of the bus that they provided to take us to the Sheraton meant that we got to check in near the front and get to bed by 2 a.m. as opposed to sitting at the back of a 300 person line and waiting another 30-45 minutes to check in.
3. Reaching out on Twitter and via multiple channels
The next morning, I started trying to call Aer Lingus a little before 8 a.m. While on hold with them, I reached out via Twitter as well
— Points with a Crew (@PointsWithACrew) September 16, 2015
(SEE ALSO: List of Airline and Hotel Twitter contacts)
I didn’t really get anywhere with the @AerLingus Twitter team (they eventually just told me to call the customer service line), but I had success reaching out to some of the folks I follow on Twitter, who gave me some good advice
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) September 16, 2015
4. Being persistent
When I finally got through to Aer Lingus on the phone, I almost had them booking me with 2 business class seats on a flight from Boston to London on a Delta flight later that evening, but when the phone agent saw that it was an award ticket booked through British Airways, she said that I’d need to call them (per the tweet above, that was incorrect).
Calling British Airways was just as unproductive – they said there was no award space available on Aer Lingus, and they wouldn’t fly me from Boston direct to London on their own flight because it was in a different “band”
For awhile on Wednesday morning I was working things on my laptop, while simultaneously on hold with Aer Lingus and British Airways on 2 separate cell phones. Eventually, we decided to head to the airport
5. Thinking outside the box and knowing my options
I had trouble sleeping that night just worried about getting, so I got up about 5 a.m. I tried to figure out a way to call the Aer Lingus call center directly in Ireland, but I had trouble getting my phone to call internationally.
When we got to the airport, the Aer Lingus gate agent we talked to somehow found us 2 seats on the 6pm direct BOS-DUB flight. I really have no idea why or how there were seats still available on that flight – by all accounts it should have been filled up with all the people on the canceled flight trying to get rebooked. The seats were in economy class rather than business class, but compared to having to wait 2-3 days, we thought it was worth it. Before we found those seats, we had priced out 2 seats on a Delta flight to London in economy that we could have bought for $2500 total – when it was that versus missing out on half our vacation, we were seriously considering it!
One thing that helped me was knowing what options there were available – I was using Google Flights (one of my Top 10 miles and points tools) to see what flights were available and what still had seats available. That was what helped me find the Delta flight to London we almost got on.
In the end, even though we were booked in economy, we GOT there. I figured it was best to just get to Europe first, and then figure out about how to get compensation.
There were definitely some things that I did wrong, but the thought that I had was just how grateful I was for the knowledge that I DID have – for less frequent travelers, I can only imagine the disruption
I don’t know if anything that I did helped us to get on that first flight, or if it was prayer, coincidence or just good luck. But next time YOU are stuck with a canceled flight or other irregular operations, remember these tips, good luck and happy flying out there!
Got any other good tips for dealing with irregular flight operations? Leave them in the comments