Earlier this week on Sunday, I experienced a flight cancellation on American Airlines 974 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to New York. It was a 9pm scheduled flight and was delayed for several hours, eventually cancelling. I documented my experience and explained that it was a 24 hour nightmare for me. Here are some tips on how to handle a flight cancellation at a Brazilian airport.
Remain Calm – Flight cancellations are pretty rare and in my case, it was due to a multiple mechanical failures. The best thing was the pilot’s decision to not fly the aircraft and have maintenance come onboard to try and diagnose the problem. Remain calm and you have to realize that things like this do happen, but thankfully not frequently.
Don’t crowd the gate agent counter – There’s really no point in crowding the gate agent. They are pretty much helpless.
Visit the airline’s VIP Club Lounge for better help – When I saw the masses crowding the gate agents, I knew that they were not getting anywhere so I headed to the Admiral’s Club. It was close to closing time, but the Admiral’s Club agents were very helpful and they let me know at 11pm that the flight is cancelled and that they are working out the hotel and transportation issue right now. I went back to the gate house and they didn’t tell us any new information, only that they are still trying to fix the problem which caused more anger to the frustrated passengers. The passengers didn’t want to fly on that plane even if it was “fixed”.
Call the airline right away to re-book – It’s much better if you have elite status because you’ll have better IRROPS (irregular operations) help over the phone in the re-booking process. Sometimes you can get re-booked at the gate, but it’s much better over the phone because there’s no wait in line. The agents over the phone can protect you on a later flight and all you have to do is speak to a ticketing counter agent to get the ticket re-issued.
It’s frustrating to be stranded in a Brazilian airport because you’ve already cleared customs and inside a secured zone. It’s not like you can just waltz out of the airport and say “Oh, I’ll just take the next flight tomorrow” like you can in the USA. Just be prepared for total chaos because there will be people crying and yelling at the gate agents. The best thing to do is to wait it out with the masses and make some new friends.
Just remember, don’t be like this guy: