4. Prep for your flight
Check the weather in both your final and connection destinations. A week before your flight, start to watch for storms. (You can also check for delays with flights similar to yours leaving a few days earlier; such delays indicate weather or other problems.) Input your airline's toll-free reservation number and website into your cellphone so you can reach out immediately upon learning of a cancellation. Pack your carry-on with items you'll need if delayed — not only a change of clothes, but also electronic chargers, food, and contact information for your hotel and rental-car agency. Finally, check-in early — 24 hours in advance, if possible. If your flight is overbooked, you'll be recorded as having checked in early.
5. Manage the crisis
As soon as you learn of a cancellation or delay, get in line to rebook. While waiting, check to see if the airline has already rebooked you. If not, try to book online or via the airline's toll-free reservation number. Also, go ahead and tweet while you're waiting — the airlines monitor and seem to respond faster to Twitter than to any other form of information. If you end up needing help at the counter, show your frequent-flier card, in case that gives you priority. Note, though, that there's a rebooking pecking order: full-fare first class, elite frequent fliers, full-fare business class, full-fare coach, discount coach, passengers using miles.
6. Whatever happens, be polite
Repeat: Be polite. It's not the airline employee's fault that your flight is delayed or canceled. Help the employee help you by sharing the fruits of your research: information on alternative airports close to your destination and schedules of other air carriers serving your destination. Regardless of the outcome, remember to take a deep breath and smile.
Also of interest: Avoid getting sick on your flight. >>