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Troubleshooter in your pocket: A checklist for handling air travel woes on the go

Here’s a plan for using your smartphone as a travel aid while you hope for the best — but prepare for the worst

J.D. Biersdorfer Published 12.09.22, 04:37 AM


After a summer of horror stories about flying, the thought of airline travel might make you queasy. What can you do if your journey is disrupted en route? Here’s a plan for using your smartphone as a travel aid while you hope for the best — but prepare for the worst.

Check your apps


Download the airlines apps. You may have signed up for alerts by text or email, but you can get notifications in the airline app, too — along with tools that come in handy when plans go awry.

A weather app that shows you the conditions at all your flight connection points is useful. And if inclement weather or airline issues cancel your flight, having apps for hotel chains, car-rental services or even train schedules already installed can help you quickly book a place to stay or find alternative ground transportation.

Check your flight

Most airline apps offer mobile check-in and digital boarding passes 24 hours before takeoff, as well as a status screen to see if your flight is on time, delayed or cancelled.

If a flight is delayed or cancelled, it’s often because the designated plane is behind schedule. Some major airline and tracker apps include a “Where’s My Plane?” feature that shows the current location of the aircraft. If you see your plane is late arriving and you’ll miss your next connection, you can immediately start the rebooking process.

Third-party flight-tracker apps work across multiple airlines and provide additional information, like worldwide airport delays. Flightradar24 and FlightAware or the free basic FlightStats are among the many options. Flighty for the iPhone monitors air traffic, detects disruptions to your flight plans and alerts you. For flight status, just type the airline and flight number into the search engine.

Check your baggage

Stuffing everything into a carry-on solves lost-luggage worries, but if you do check a bag, you might have free luggage tracking. Delta Air Lines and others use radio-frequency tags on checked bags. You can get updates on your suitcase’s location by tapping the Track My Bags button in your airline’s app.

If your carrier doesn’t offer bag-tracking, consider slipping an inexpensive location-reporting device like a Tile or an Apple AirTag into your suitcase and tracking it with your smartphone.

Check the airport

If your flight is delayed and you’re stuck at an unfamiliar airport, fear not. There are maps to look for phone-charging stations, coffee, etc. Your airline’s app may already include airport maps, as do some flight-tracking and travel apps.

Apps dedicated to airport layouts are available, but programs you probably have already — like Google Maps and Apple Maps — often have terminal maps.

And if you have a flight connection coming up, check the map to familiarise yourself with the layover airport. You may need to hoof it at high speed to make that next leg of your trip.

Check your options

If your flight is cancelled, jump right into the rebooking process. Most airlines let you reschedule through their apps or websites.

If no seats are available, it may be possible to transfer your ticket to another airline. If not, Google Flights or travel-booking sites like Kayak or Expedia will show alternative flights. But if you’re grounded for the day, fire up your apps for hotels — or alternative travel methods.

In some cases, you may have travel credits or refunds for cancelled flights. Companies like AirHelp can guide you through a claim, but some credit cards include trip interruption insurance already, so check that. The Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection site has a page of resources online, and a new interactive dashboard is expected by September 2.


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