What To Do If Your Airline Strands You

Flying bankrupt airlines had long been considered normal. The airline business is so rough that many of the major US carriers have filed not just once but multiple times. Rarely does bankruptcy mean that the airline goes away entirely. It’s hard to kill an airline. There are too many jobs at risk, and aircraft owners don’t want their planes sitting on the ground. Likewise, a major shutdown could have an impact on the global economy. Many credit the lack of airport security for ending the recent government shutdown.

On rare occasions, though, airlines do completely shutter operations. Often, it’s a carrier that you may never have heard of. For example, in the fall, European operator Primera Air ceased operations suddenly. And this past weekend, Britain’s Flybmi did the same. Only a few hundred people were affected, but if you were one of those, the small number was no consolation.

What Should I Do If I Get Stranded?

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The good news is, it’s extremely rare for airlines to shut down immediately and strand passengers. In all likelihood, it’s something that you will never have to worry about. If you’re flying a major carrier, the chances are essentially zero. If you’re flying an ultra-low cost carrier, the chances are almost essentially zero.

The bad news is, there’s not a lot you can do if it does happen. With no advance warning, there are only so many steps that you can take ahead of time. Your vacation may be ruined, but at least you’re home.

  • Outside of being aware of some travel basics, it’s also a good idea to know who else is flying the route and when, especially if you are using a carrier that you’ve never heard of. True, your carrier may not shut down, but if it’s an ultra-low cost carrier, chances are that they don’t have a lot of spare airplanes hanging around, and if your flight gets cancelled, you may be stranded. You’ll want to be one of the first people to snap up any remaining tickets if it’s imperative that you get home on time.
  • If you haven’t left for your trip yet, contact your credit card company. You should be able to do a chargeback.
  • Contact the hotel that you were . going to stay at. They may be willing to waive the change fee.

On The Road…

So you’re at your destination, ready to head home and your airline announces that it is shutting down. What can you do?

  • If you are on a package deal, contact your travel agent, or the package company if you booked directly. Their are no guarantees, but there’s a reason that they use the word “agent.” They’re operating on your behalf and can do some work for their commission.
  • Contact your credit card company. You may be covered by trip interruption insurance. They can help you get home from there.
  • Look into “rescue fares.” Within Europe, there’s a formal program. Outside of Europe, airlines often have informal programs. And remember, many US discount carriers (Hello, Southwest.) don’t list on aggregators like Expedia.
  • Be nice to the employees (if you can find one). You’re frustrated, but it’s not their fault that the airline is shutting down. They don’t know any more than you do.

Remember, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find yourself in this situation, but it’s better to be prepared.


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