We’ve all had it happen. A flight is canceled or severely delayed, and our “best-laid schemes” are truly shot. I was just on the East Coast, visiting schools with my high school senior daughter. We had a flight canceled due to bad weather, got re-booked on a flight the next morning, only to have it delayed by several hours due to mechanical problems, causing us to miss an appointment at a school in St. Louis. In fact, we ended up missing St. Louis altogether, flying straight back to California.

Airlines do not normally offer any compensation for weather related delays, but if the problem is caused by something the airline has more control over, such as a mechanical problem, then they are much more likely to be responsive to your reasonable requests. Here is a short list of guidelines I use in this situation, including playing the “social media card” to even the odds just a bit…

1. Be clear and concise when describing the problem (“this 3rd delay means that I will miss my meeting / interview / appointment and I will now have to reschedule and make another trip”).

2. Let them know exactly what you would like (“since I will have to buy another ticket because of this delay, I am requesting that you issue me a $200 / $300 / $400 voucher good for future travel”).

3. Be polite but firm, and ask to speak to the person in charge (“I’m requesting a $400 travel credit and you are offering me a $6 meal coupon? Can I please speak with your manager?”).

4. It’s OK to get a little emotional, but don’t make it personal (“this flight cancellation and delay will cost me a lot of money, and you are offering me a $6 coupon? I’m sorry, but that is just insulting! I need to speak with whoever is in charge”).

5. When speaking with a manager empowered to resolve the problem, remind them of the power of social media (“I’m sure you would like to get this issue resolved as much as I would, and then I can tweet / yelp / blog about what a great job you did in resolving my problem”).

6. Be prepared to spend some time negotiating for a satisfactory settlement.

7. When you are offered a satisfactory resolution, be gracious and appreciative, but save the happy dance for later!

In our case, we received upgrades to Business Elite on our flight back to San Francisco, and vouchers that should pay for round trip tickets to St. Louis. Thanks Delta for taking care of us and resolving the problem! And special thanks to Marina V for making it happen!!

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