Courtesy // Marco Lopez

Salvaging a cancelled trip

By Jeremy Freed

It’s a scenario no traveller wants. You get to the airport, navigate check-in and security, arrive at your gate on time—and find out your flight has been delayed for hours or, worse, cancelled altogether.

Take heart. You might not be able to prevent the occasional flight cancellation, but there are resources, and actions you can take, that will help ensure a flight cancellation won’t stop you in your tracks.

Know Your Rights

Since 2019, the Canadian Transportation Agency’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations have helped ensure that passengers travelling to, from and within Canada are fairly compensated for flight delays and cancellations when the airline is at fault. These regulations—often referred to as “the air passenger bill of rights”—are currently being reviewed, and an updated version is expected later this year (2024). Until then, here are some highlights from the current regulations to keep in mind:

  • If your flight is cancelled last-minute, airlines are obligated to give you essential information, including the reason for the cancellation. They must also inform passengers about the compensation and assistance they may be entitled to.
  • If your flight is cancelled or delayed by three hours or more due to an issue within the airline’s control, you are entitled to compensation, and the airline must book you on another flight as soon as possible.
  • If the airline can’t get you where you need to be or you’re not satisfied with the itinerary they offer, in most cases you are entitled to a refund.

If you’re travelling on an airline outside of Canada, keep in mind that air passenger rights vary from country to country. The International Air Transport Association provides links to air passenger rights organizations in several regions and to a directory of Civil Aviation Authorities around the world.

Ready for takeoff? Follow these best practices to help ensure that a last-minute cancellation won’t derail your travel plans.

Invest in Travel Insurance

Before you go on your trip, it’s essential to purchase travel medical, trip interruption and trip cancellation insurance. In the event of last-minute travel disruptions, these insurance policies can make it easier to find another flight or receive compensation.

Arrive Early

If you’re travelling for a time-sensitive event, such as a wedding, graduation or coach tour departure, plan to arrive at least a day ahead of time. That way, even an extended delay won’t result in disappointment.

Pack Smart

To weather long delays or cancellations with greater ease, pack your carry-on with your travel essentials, including a couple of days’ change of clothes, valuables and medication. And don’t forget anti-boredom options such as iPads, games for kids and books, too.

Get support from AMA Travel with the Air Passenger Help Guide.