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Joy

The one hard and fast rule when your flight gets canceled or delayed and you're stranded

A little empathy goes a long way.

flying, airport, airlines, travel

With thousands of flights canceled, tensions in airports are high.

Air travel is a hot mess right now, especially with Southwest Airlines apparently in a system-wide meltdown. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Passengers are stranded at airports across the country. Checked bags are nowhere to be found. People are complaining of hours-long customer service lines and no one answering phones.

All of this is immensely frustrating, of course. No one likes having their plans changed without warning and having to scramble to problem-solve on the fly. Traveling is already stressful as it is, especially during the holidays, which is all the more reason to follow the one hard and fast rule for when your travel plans get disrupted.

Be kind to airline employees.


No matter what happened to cause the flight delays or cancelations, none of the desk personnel, gate agents, flight attendants, etc. in the airport or the customer service reps on the phone had anything to do with it. It's not their fault, they're not to blame and taking out frustrations on them is both unhelpful and unkind.

I've seen a surprising number of people complain to gate agents about a flight being canceled due to weather and outright demand they do something to fix it. If one flight is canceled due to weather in an area, they most probably all are, so demanding a fix to an unfixable problem will only lead to more frustration for all involved.

But even when the problem is something like the current Southwest situation, where it's clearly not just weather but a bigger issue with the airline itself, it's still not the fault of the individual airline employees at the airport or the person on the other end of the customer service line who are trying to help. They know passengers are frustrated and they are too. Tensions are high all around. But sometimes there's simply nothing they can do, and no amount of ranting at them is going to change that.

Airline employees are in the business of getting people where they're supposed to go. They have no desire to keep anyone stranded in an airport. It's not fun for them to have to deal with the logistical nightmare of trying to get thousands of tired, cranky customers and their luggage to the correct places. And if you're stuck someplace due to a canceled flight, there's a good chance some airline employees are stuck there as well. Southwest crew members report being stranded at airports and unable to get through to their own company. There's simply never a reason to berate or abuse an airline employee for a flight delay or cancelation.

Passengers can make the argument that they paid the airline money to get them to their destination at a certain time, and the airline isn't fulfilling its end of the bargain. If it's the airline's fault the flight was canceled, most airlines have policies in place for compensating passengers. But weather delays and cancelations are no one's fault. They just happen. That's part of the risk of airline travel. And while a flight being canceled due to weather is a bummer, it also keeps people safe.

The current Southwest debacle is another story, but even in that case, it's no individual employee's fault. The issues that led to a deluge of canceled Southwest flights start way up the chain, not at the poor person standing in front of the computer at the airport terminal trying desperately to mop up the mess. It's understandable that people would be upset, but let's make sure that emotion isn't unleashed on powerless parties. Vent those frustrations into a strongly worded letter to the company or in a social media post or on a call to a sympathetic friend. Don't take them out on the Southwest employee who is not only drowning in the flood but probably also wondering whether they're going to have a job next month.

The same goes for any employee at the airport. Anger and frustration are understandable and patience has its limit, but taking it all out on airline or airport employees only makes things worse. A little kindness and empathy can go a long way. The more we can put ourselves into other people's shoes and treat others the way we would want to be treated in the moment, the better off everyone will be through all of this.

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