Last week, we saw headlines of a traveler’s worst nightmare – Air Australia suddenly declared bankruptcy on Friday the 17th, immediately grounded its fleet and stranded thousands of travelers all around the Pacific.

In all, approximately 4,000 passengers were stranded in Hawaii, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, and no flights are expected in the “short to medium term,” according to a spokesperson. Up to 100,000 tickets for future flights could end up being worthless. Some customers might get refunds, but here’s hoping that they bought trip cancellation insurance.

If you’re not one of the unfortunate Air Australia passengers who isn’t sure how they’re going to get home (although being stranded in Hawaii might not be all that bad), the bigger question is how often does this happen? Should frequent travelers busy themselves calculating the odds that their airline will suddenly go belly up?

Every now and then, an airline has a bad day and seems unprepared for the weather, inconveniencing passengers. But that usually only lasts a few hours, they eventually get where they’re going, and it isn’t a sign of impending doom.  Other times, a way home emerges – when Mexicana Airlines abruptly shut down two years ago, other airlines stepped in with additional flights to travelers get where they were going.

The reality is that it’s just about impossible to know just how serious an airline’s financial situation is – they all seem to be constantly juggling columns on their balance sheets. There was no public advance warning that Air Australia was in danger – according to one story from Down Under, the airline kept selling tickets even though it knew it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

So the odds are that there won’t be a warning – stuff happens, even when you’re halfway around the globe (or is that especially when you’re halfway around the globe?). The best approach is to expect the unexpected, buy the trip cancellation insurance, and don’t let the possibility of something you can’t control ruin your trip.

Photo by Sheba_Also.

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About The Author

John Miller is president of ScribeWise. He is an avid traveler and web-surfing junkie. Visit www.scribewise.com.

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