Given all the recent flight cancellations and delays, last week was a terribly bad, no good week for Delta Air Lines passengers. Unfortunately, cancellations and delays are a part of modern air travel, and that's not going to change in the foreseeable future. "Airlines will likely suffer more disruptions like the one that grounded about 2,000 Delta flights [last] week because major carriers have not invested enough to overhaul reservations systems based on technology dating to the 1960s," according to a report on Reuters.com.
USA Today offered a similar sentiment: "Where once software was used primarily to book flights and issue tickets, today it’s a matrix of overlapping, often disjointed systems that interact with mobile apps, track loyalty awards and help the airline industry bring in billions of dollars through the sale of perks like extra leg room. That growing complexity makes for hiccups, and they are difficult to avoid."
In other words, anyone who flies regularly needs to be able to quickly book an alternate flight when a scheduled flight is cancelled or seriously delayed.
Travel with TripIt
The free TripIt service and mobile apps are good for casual, infrequent travelers who want to keep all their travel plans — rental car, airline reservations and hotel bookings — in one place and share them with others.
For business or frequent travelers, however, I recommend the $49 a year TripIt Pro plan, to which I've subscribed for years. Along with helpful flight update alerts, the alternate flight locator helps you quickly identify flights that still have available seats, so you can rebook ASAP (usually at your own expense).
Other TripIt Pro goodies include notifications when better fares or seats become available on booked flights. Last year, the TripIt fare alert saved me $81 on a Virgin America flight.
Fly like a 'Freebird'
After you book a flight, you can pay Freebird $34 per round-trip U.S. flight (or $19 one way), for a sort of travel insurance. If your flight is cancelled or delayed more than four hours, or you miss a connection, you can rebook another flight using Freebird's mobile-friendly website. (Freebird doesn't have mobile apps.) However, some additional airline administrations fees may apply.
The cut-off time to buy Freebird coverage is two days before your flight. Freebird also says its $19 and $34 rates are promotional and will at some point increase to around $30 for each leg, based on the likelihood that flights will be disrupted.
TripIt Pro AND Freebird
Frequent business travelers already face enough stress, and many people on tight travel budgets don't have the means to rebook flights and eat the losses. But an ideal scenario exists, aside from never experiencing a delay or cancellation. (Good luck with that.) You could purchase a TripIt Pro plan, for its rebooking features and other worthwhile amenities, and then also buy Freebird protection when traveling to important business meetings or events you can't afford to miss.