If you have an upcoming flight, you’re probably worried about an airline cancellation or delay. With good reason. Airlines canceled a record number of flights in June, and by the looks of it, they’re just getting started.
A new prediction by Aerology says there’s a 3 in 5 chance that air traffic delays will be more prevalent in July and August than in the last two months. The second week in August will be particularly delay-prone, it warns.
“Travel is certainly challenging,” says Mike Hallman, CEO of air medical transport and travel security company Medjet. “Pilot shortages, staff shortages, air traffic control center staffing issues and distressed finances are wreaking havoc on the airline industry’s reliability.”
You may not be able to stop the cancellations and delays. But there are a few websites that will allow you to handle the travel disruptions. They’ll help you track flights, predict your flight weather, rebook your flight – and even book a replacement hotel or rental car.
Track your flight
FlightAware, a site that helps you follow flight delays, has been a go-to for travel pros.
“I use Flightaware.com quite often to track flights,” says Nicole LeBlanc, a travel planner with monVOYAGE. “I follow my departing flight as well as the inbound equipment that serves the flight I’ve actually booked. The site is also very handy for getting the general delay picture at any particular airport.”
FlightAware also publishes a “misery map” of flight hubs in the United States, showing the most delayed airports. Here’s one from this week:
Another site worth checking out is FlightView from OAG. It allows you to pull up a live view of your flight and track its progress. The site lets you manage your flight itineraries, access arrival and departure boards, and stay informed about airport delays. It also has access to weather forecasts relating to your flight.
Flightradar24, another flight tracking site, has one of the most sophisticated user interfaces. Keishi Nukina, who publishes an aviation blog, likes the site. “It shows the status of an inbound flight,” he says. “This then gives me an idea of whether my flight has a chance of departing on time or not – in other words, if the inbound flight is delayed to the point where the indicated departure time of my flight would be impossible to meet.”
Get flight weather
The Weather Channel site gets rave reviews from air travelers. “I’ve tried a lot of other apps and sites over the years, but The Weather Channel generally wins for accuracy,” says Nicole Gustas, director of marketing for an insurance company. She likes being able to set multiple locations in the app.
“I usually start checking my next destination three days ahead of time,” she says.
AccuWeather also displays flight weather for specific cities. It focuses on factors such as rain, cloud cover and wind gusts to generate its forecasts.
Another go-to resource for anyone concerned about weather delays is the US government Aviation Weather Center. It pinpoints areas of weather disruption on an interactive map. There’s a new version of the site coming soon. You’ll need to know a little aviation jargon to process some of the information. But the map can offer a bird’s-eye view of any weather disruptions – no meteorology courses required.
Get help with your flight
Several websites will help you if an airline cancels or delays your flight. FlyersRights.org, an organization that helps airline passengers, has a comprehensive section on its site that displays delays and cancellations. It includes tips on how to get compensation. You can also call its hotline at 877-FLYER6 or email email@example.com if you have an individual airline problem.
Travelers United, another airline consumer organization, also has an extensive list of articles that explain your passenger rights.
I run a nonprofit organization that helps air travelers. If you’re stuck somewhere and need help, I have a team of advocates that might be able to help for free. Here’s how to reach us.
If you’re traveling in Europe and you have a disrupted flight, try AirHelp, a paid service that assists travelers with getting compensation under EU laws. That’s the recommendation of Axel Hernborg, CEO of the discount travel site Tripplo. “They have a vast network of law firms across 30 countries dedicated to helping air passengers all around the world,” he says.
Find a hotel or car at the last minute
There are hundreds of websites that can offer a last-minute rental car, hotel or flight. A site like HotelTonight is a standout. It’s well-reviewed and offers exclusive inventory online and through its app.
But hopefully, you won’t have to ever get to that point. You’ll find out about the cancellation or delay long before it happens, and you’ll make alternate plans.
If you need a last-minute set of wheels, you can also try Car Rentals Savers’ last-minute specials. But note that car rental rates are still unusually high. Still, the site promises a 10% savings over comparable rates on Hotwire and a 30% savings over Expedia.
So what should you do if your flight has been canceled or delayed?
Airline cancellations and delays are happening with greater frequency. These sites can help you see the disruptions before they happen, deal with them when they do, and be on your way. I also publish advice on your rights when your airline cancels or delays your flights or denies you boarding on my consumer advocacy site.
Bottom line: Remain calm and bookmark these sites. You’re far less likely to be spending the night at the airport if you do.