Images are unavailable offline.

David-Prado/istock

1. Keep Calm and Carry On

Airlines typically rebook you on the next available flight automatically. You can either ask for a full refund – which can be done through the website or hotline – or stick with the new itinerary (which might only mean a few hours delay). Avoid running to the queue immediately; it’s not worth the experience of being sandwiched among dozens of disgruntled passengers.

2. Call customer service

Airport staff are often “harassed by too many people, under a lot of pressure, and can only give you a certain amount of limited time to find a solution for you,” says Arif Khan, manager of Voyages Norko Travel in Montreal. Call customer service instead, where an agent can talk you through all the options.

3. See what’s available

It is not uncommon for airlines to fly in an empty plane and rebook all passengers on it. Depending on your final destination, it might not get you there in the shortest amount of time. “You must remind them to look for partner airlines too; sometimes they only look in their system for the airline,” Khan added.

Story continues below advertisement

4. Ask, ask, ask!

“Be proactive and ask politely,” says Andrew D’Amours, co-founder of Flytrippers, a website that offers flight deals and advice. Food and hotel vouchers are usually offered for passengers stuck overnight, but airline staff might overlook these details when they’re under a lot of pressure. Also, having the ground staff on your side might land you a seat with extra legroom or lounge access.

5. Express your grievances

After you’ve unpacked from your trip, tell the airline how your plans were disrupted. Unless your flight was cancelled due to reasons out of the airline’s control, namely bad weather, you might get a voucher or even cash compensation (if your flight began or ended in an EU country). Remember: A happy customer is a returning customer. Play that to your advantage!