Tournaments are amazing. Without fail, you have a large group of competitors and in the end it all boils down to a winner, a finalist and a bunch of people whose names you can't remember. When delays, cancellations or irregular operations occur whether you know it or not, you are thrown into a high stakes tournament of which there is always a winner. One passenger might get a first class upgrade on the next flight, the next get's the last seat on the flight, the semi finalists maybe get a place to stay for the night and those of you aimlessly standing in line to rebook or change plans get the "thanks for playing, sleep on the floor". In this all out war it is essential to employ all methods of communication while thinking out of the box. Though offerings for taking a later flights are sometimes well worth the hassle, Here are a few must do's in the situation you simply cannot wait...
Social Media Barrage:
When it comes to getting re booked the quick hand wins. I highly suggest beginning a twitter/facebook/phone dialog as soon as you hear the bad news. If you are in the back of the rebooking line, you can often jump the cue by tweeting your issue and booking reference to the airline. Airlines and hotels (even rental cars) are pretty responsive via social media and many have the ability to handle your rebooking in a few clicks via twitter. Even if you don't "tweet", having a twitter ready to fire off a "I was on Flight 594, flight is cancelled, need to re book to XYZ as soon as possible, what are my options thanks" can get you that precious last seat.
Don't Follow Crowds:
When a flight gets delayed, cancelled or irregular operations occur, group think and following seems to take over. Once again, if you are not amongst the first in line, seek help elsewhere. Though your gate agent might be the most knowledgable on the present situation, there are countless professionals from your airline throughout the terminal who are ready to help. I often try to flag a senior customer service terminal rep or someone from a gate that is open nearby to assist before the rest of the passengers waiting in the group think line get taken care of.
Lounges Can Be Golden:
I have had a few tragic flight delays/cancellations where the airline's lounge desk was able to pull off a miracle I'm not even sure a gate agent has the authority to do. If there is a good team in place in your (airline) lounge, I'd make a B line back in there and be as polite as possible to avoid the cues and get yourself rebooked or taken care of in the best way possible. Besides, if a whole hoard of people are about to have a long wait, it's nice to grab a cozy place to sit.
Final Straw, Desperate Measures:
Airlines will reimburse you for reasonable expenses incurred provided you have receipts and the expenses are due to problems they created. If you are traveling during a peak season and there might only be 20 hotel rooms available for stranded passengers, don't wait for a voucher, book it yourself as quickly as possible. Submit your expense to the airline with details about the flight and rest assured knowing that there are 80 people who weren't as quick who are now sleeping on an airport floor.
For the most frequent and infrequent travelers delays are unavoidable. Being prepared is always going to put you on stronger footing. It never hurts to mention your favorite travel blog in your tweet to the airline so they know someone has your back. I'll be watching....