1. Avoid the line (if you can)
While a herd mentality is common in these situations – everyone rushing to the re-booking desk, jockeying to get to the front of the line – you may have better options. If you have status with the airline or hold a higher-end travel credit card, you’ll have a reserved number to call in cases like this. Instead of queuing up, take a deep breath, find a quiet corner and make the call.
2. Be nice and ask for the person in charge
If you think you’ve had a long day, the rebooking agent, dealing with an endless succession of surly and panicked passengers, has surely had a longer one – a simple kind word can sometimes get you on a better flight (or at least into a nicer seat). And if you’re not getting what you need, ask to speak with the supervisor or even station chief, who have greater authority to override restrictions and more flexibility to book off-limits routes (and make upgrades).
3. Use social media
Nobody likes bad press, including airlines. Even if you don’t have a huge following, a tweet or public Facebook message can see immediate results. “Anytime I’ve a missed a flight, I found tweeting got me instant contact with ‘powers that be,’ ” veteran travel writer Sue Campbell says. “They respond with a direct message and try to help – 10 times faster than calling or even talking to gate agents.”
4. Buy the insurance
There are also things you can do before the fact to make a missed connection less painful. It seems almost antithetical in our age of rock-bottom fares, but it can pay to spend a little extra and buy trip cancellation insurance. “It doesn’t cost much and when something happens, you can make decisions quicker and easier knowing that you have insurance to cover those costs,” says Charlotte April Harris, head of sales and marketing for Hong Kong-based Charlotte Travel.
5. Use a travel agent
Booking yourself online can be easy and cheap, but it won’t get you to the front of the line faster. “We have direct, exclusive phone numbers and contacts with the airlines,” says Darren Prashad, a manager at Merit Travel in Ottawa. “My parents got bumped once and I had them rebooked before they made it through to the airline counter.”