🔒 Rhonda Walker: What I learned from my recent air travel nightmare

FILE - Delta Air Lines plane leaves the gate, July 12, 2021, at Logan International Airport in Boston. Delta Air Lines is boosting its outlook for second-quarter revenue because it expects phenomenal demand for travel this summer. The airline said Wednesday, June 1, 2022 that it expects second-quarter adjusted revenue will be back to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, and revenue per seat will be higher than originally expected. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, file) (Michael Dwyer, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

It’s my first trip since mass cancellations and delays have plagued the air travel industry, so needless to say my fingers were crossed, hoping I could take the trip as planned on both my outbound and inbound flights. 

My early morning flight on Friday out of Detroit Metro Airport on Delta Airlines was right on schedule to Fort Lauderdale Florida, whew! But the return -- not so much.  I have the Delta App on my phone and before I checked out of my hotel, I went on the app to check in for my flight. 

That’s when I was completely confused to see that I was booked on a totally different flight on a totally different day. It took me a few minutes to realize it wasn’t a glitch on the app and that my flight must have been cancelled and automatically rebooked, which was not clear on the app.

I immediately checked my email for information and, sure enough, early that morning, Delta sent me an email alerting me my flight was cancelled and that I was automatically rebooked on another flight the following morning.  The email also had links to other options if I wanted to reschedule or cancel.  Delta made the process pretty informative and easy and this was all very appreciated.  I’m not sure if it would be the same experience with other airlines.  But it didn’t help the fact that I was supposed to be at work at 3:30am the next day to anchor our morning and noon newscasts, so I immediately worried about missing work and selected the reschedule option to see if there were any other flights that would get me out of south Florida from any airport that day.  

Every flight at two major airports said SOLD OUT! So, before I did anything else I alerted management at Local 4 of my situation and went to work to figure out what I was going to do the rest of the day and night.

Thankfully, this all unfolded while I was still at my hotel and not in the frenzy of a busy airport. So, my first advice when traveling, monitor your airline app and email inbox like a hawk and set it for alerts, so if anything changes you know real time and can act quickly before you get to the airport. I didn’t have my alerts on and lost a few hours that may or may not have helped me reschedule to still get home on the original travel day.   

I also got lucky with the hotel I was staying in, I was able to downgrade to the cheapest, most basic room and thankfully they had a room available. The airline rebooked me on the first early morning flight out the next day, but it did mean missing work all together with my early morning work schedule.

So, I missed a day of work and spent an extra $350 on the hotel room and food for the additional day.  One benefit is, I opted for ride sharing with Uber over renting a car, so I didn’t have the inconvenience of needing to return a car or assume the added expense to keep it another day.

The lessons I learned is that this is a new reality for anyone, so you should be prepared with additional money and lodging options you may need if your flight gets cancelled and requires you to remain wherever you are for an additional day(s). Also, as I mentioned make sure you have your airline app and emails set to send you push alerts to your phone with any new messages.

I’m not sure this made a difference in getting me automatically rebooked so easily but booking with an airline like Delta that is a hub in Detroit gives you greater flight options to rebook. I am also a Delta SkyMiles member and use the America Express SkyMiles card for most purchases, large and small, from plane tickets to groceries for the mileage credit. It has enabled me to have a platinum status with the airline which could have prioritized rebooking my flight automatically ahead of other travelers, but I can’t confirm that, just a hunch it may have helped me.

I also learned in this process that early morning flights are less likely to be cancelled, so in the future I am going to book my flights in the morning whenever possible. I even changed a future trip I already booked to return a day earlier so that I have an extra day off work already scheduled in case my flight gets cancelled again and I need an additional day to get home. 

One other thing I’m considering for trips I plan in the future, especially if flight cancellations remain prevalent, is to wait on booking anything else this year or keep my travels to destinations I can get to by car.

Pure Michigan summers are my absolute favorite so definitely no reason to leave anytime soon!

About the Author:

Rhonda Walker has been helping Detroiters get motivated and ready for the day for the past 22 years. A confessed morning person, this award winning talented and versatile journalist starts her day at 2:00 am to co-anchor the weekday morning newscast at WDIV-Local 4 News. A position she’s held since 2003.