How to Not Have a Panic Attack When Your Flight is Cancelled

Last night, as I was eating my delicious Five Guys burger at the Raleigh Durham Airport I received the message that no traveler wants to receive.

“Your flight has been cancelled.”

Thinking this was some kind of sick joke considering my adventure had just started, I ran to my gate to straighten things out, but instead encountered a mass of people with panicked faces and a massive line to the kiosk of gate 23.

After my brief bout with denial, I hopped into action using a very scientific, step-by-step approach.

Step 1- Call someone who will make you feel better

In order to calm down, the first step is to call your anchor, someone who will listen when you tell them how unfair your life is and will take your dramatic complaints in stride. My first call was to my mom and dad. Then, I called in the experts AKA just my sister. She has been the most frequent flyer in our family and quickly told me that it would be alright and that she had already looked up a flight out of Raleigh the next day.

Step 2- Don’t just wait in the line.

You should immediately get in the line that grows around the information desk of the gate, but waiting should not be the only thing that you do in line. Call the airline. I cannot stress this enough, because inevitably there will only be about 3-5 airline workers dealing with about 30-50 different people with only a limited amount of space on flights. Be a little selfish and get ahead of the game by giving the airline a call and being aggressive. Tell them you need the earliest flight out and when they try to suggest a later one, tell them you saw one online already that was earlier. They will get you all squared away with just a couple of clicks.

Step 3- Finish waiting in the kiosk line but be vigilant.

This is the hard part. The waiting. After already being frustrated with your plans being wrecked, everything starts to feel personal. That guy who just got called to the front of the line at another station? Biggest jerk of all time. The girl who got out of line to go to the bathroom and then assumed she could just get right back in her spot? A cheater and a fraud. Whenever a spot opens up in line, you need to be aggressive and hop in because anyone else is going to do the same.


Alone and thriving in my hotel room in Raleigh, about to get a wonderful 2 hours of sleep before the next flight

Step 4- Be nice to literally everyone.

Do not let your frustration get the better of you. Rather than taking your anger out on the innocents, be kind. In my wait, I met an au pair that was on her way back to Germany and it was really interesting to hear about her life and made the time go just a little bit faster. What I mostly mean for this step is be nice to the employees. Not only are they working their butts off to get you to where you need to go, they are stuck in the airport just like the rest of you. The other side to being nice to employees is that they will help you. I don’t just mean help you get your flight, they will help you have the nicest experience possible in the situation. In my case, showing a little kindness helped me get a window seat on my new flight to London, one of the better hotels on the list, and then an upgrade as soon as I got to the hotel. In almost all situations, kindness goes a looooooong way.

Step 5- Just get it done

You can throw a pity party and a tantrum and cry some tears and complain a lot, but only after you have figured everything out. A breakdown will not help anybody, especially not you. These trying times of travel will show your truest colors and teach you how to be a self-functioning adult (a wild and ridiculous concept, I know). It will also prove that you can do just about anything with the right amount of motivation, such as getting to London in time to reunite with one of your best friends.


Good luck with your trip and let me know if you have any questions when you are in a pickle!

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