Airlines Canceling Thousands of Flights, Leaving Passengers Stranded

A woman sits dejectedly at the airport.

Image source: Getty Images

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Airlines are canceling a record number of flights, leaving travelers stranded at airports. Will your air travel plans get changed unexpectedly?

If your travel plans include flying, it could take longer than you think to reach your destination. More than one U.S. airline has been experiencing significant problems, resulting in a large number of canceled flights for travelers. Find out more so you can better plan your upcoming travel

Spirit Airlines cancels thousands of flights over the past five days

Across the country, Spirit Airlines has left passengers stranded at airports. The airline blames various operational issues such as weather, staffing shortages, and technology problems for their struggles.

According to data from FlightAware, the Florida-based airline canceled at least 1,700 scheduled flights between Sunday, August 1, and Thursday, August 5, 2021. On Thursday alone, the airline canceled more than half of its scheduled flights for the day.

These cancellations are creating stress for many travelers. Since the airline has a smaller fleet and fewer flight options than many larger airlines, it's a lot harder for travelers to get put on a different flight.

But Spirit Airlines isn't the only airline that has been canceling flights. American Airlines is also having operational issues. The airline canceled hundreds of flights each day earlier this week. The company is contributing these cancellations to severe weather in Texas.

Despite receiving bailout funds from the CARES Act, many airlines have fewer employees working right now. That has forced stranded passengers to deal with canceled flights and long wait times when trying to contact their airline for customer service support.

Here's what to do if you're traveling soon

If you're planning to get on a plane soon, be ready in case your travel plans get changed unexpectedly.

  • Remain as flexible as possible. Understand that you may need to adjust your travel plans. Having a backup plan is a great idea. For example, consider renting a car if you get stranded and won't be able to get a new flight any time soon.
  • Prepare for long wait times. Many people are traveling right now, and airlines and airports may be short-staffed. So be prepared for long wait times when traveling at the airport and when contacting customer service.
  • Check your reservations often. If you have reservations already made, be sure to check them often. You may find that your plans are altered in advance or at the last moment. Catching a change before you arrive at the airport could allow you to avoid being stuck without a backup plan.

Here's what to do if you're about to make travel plans

  • Use a credit card with travel protection. When making your plans, it's a smart idea to use a credit card that includes travel protection. The right travel card may be able to provide reimbursement if you're delayed for a significant amount of time or if your travel plans are cancelled. This coverage varies by card and eligibility depends on the reasoning for your delay or cancellation. Be sure to look into the details of coverage.
  • Consider the airline's customer service. Making travel plans with an airline with a poor customer service track record may be a bad choice. For example, a budget airline may be less likely to offer you food or hotel vouchers if you're stranded and can't get another flight anytime soon. Instead, you may be responsible for those costs. Booking with a different airline may be beneficial -- even if the flight costs more money.
  • Allow for extra time in your schedule. It's a good idea to allow for extra time when making plans. Consider taking additional days off of work if possible to account for potential delays and give you room for unplanned changes. You don't want to stress out about getting back to work after experiencing a canceled flight.
  • Budget for extra travel costs. Travel often costs more in 2021, from extra pandemic-era costs, like required COVID-19 testing, to higher travel costs due to increased travel demand. When creating your travel budget, allow additional funds for unexpected expenses.

Hopefully, you won't experience any flight delays while on your next trip. When making travel plans, book with a travel rewards credit card so you can earn rewards points on your purchases. Our list of best travel credit cards can make it easier to choose your next card.

Top credit card wipes out interest until 2024

If you have credit card debt, transferring it to this top balance transfer card secures you a 0% intro APR for up to 21 months! Plus, you'll pay no annual fee. Those are just a few reasons why our experts rate this card as a top pick to help get control of your debt. Read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

Our Research Expert