What to do if you're caught in Delta's system outage

If you're traveling on Delta Air Lines (DAL), chances are you're facing a major headache.

After a computer systems failure on Monday, the airline grounded flights worldwide and warned of widespread cancellations and delays. Thousands of travelers are now facing disrupted plans, with customers complaining on social media about long lines, confusing instructions from staff, and spending hours trying to rebook their tickets.

With the outage happening during peak travel season, there may be fewer options for making alternative travel plans than at other times of the year, however. While Delta is offering a waiver on change fees for travelers who have flights booked through Friday, August 12, that may be no consolation to people who were on their way to a wedding, pre-paid vacation or other scheduled events. The rebooked travel must start on or before August 12, the airline said.

"I've never understood these 'waiver' offers," said George Hobica, president of travel site Airfarewatchdog.com. "Most people fly because they need to start their vacation for which they've paid non-refundable land arrangements, or they're going to a meeting, funeral, wedding or whatever that begins today, not on August 12."

Unfortunately, some travelers may not be able to rejigger their travel plans to avoid some delay or missing part of their vacations. To rebook via Delta, the airline says customers should contact its reservations and sales department.

As Hobica notes, "Since we are still in peak vacation period, a lot of people will be losing out on vacation days and pre-paid hotels," among other bookings.

Make sure to check all sources of data from Delta about a flight's status, such as through an online flight status, texts or emails, to make sure you are on top of the latest information, recommends flight rebooking service Freebird. That service rebooks customers whose flights have been canceled or delayed, but customers have to have bought Freebird at least two days before the disruption, which means travelers who buy it today won't be able rebook until Aug. 10.

Aside from taking advantage of Delta's waiver and rebooking on a flight later this week, below are 5 steps you might take if you had planned to fly Delta.

Go to the airport and wait it out. It may be risky, but Delta says some flights are leaving. As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Monday morning, the airline said it had operated 800 out of its roughly 6,000 scheduled flights. "While systems are improving and flights are resuming, delays and cancellations continue," the company said. About 40 percent of flights from Atlanta's airport, Delta's hub, are reported as very late, according to FlightView.

Ask Delta to put you on another airline. While a possibility, it may be a slim one since it's peak travel season and seats may already be scarce, Hobica notes. Mondays are a busy day for travel, which cuts down on your chances, but it's still worth asking. If you are traveling internationally, there's a better chance of finding a seat on another flight than with domestic travel. Travelers in Delta's upper tier of its frequent flier program may get better treatment than those without such standing, Hobica notes.

Ask for a refund. Travelers have the right for a refund in case of cancellation or a significant delay. That may not help travelers reach their destination today, but it can help defray the cost of ponying up for alternative plans, such as renting a car or buying a new ticket on another airline.

Call your credit card issuer. Get on the phone with the credit card company with which you bought your Delta ticket. Some have insurance that will offer some coverage for flight delays or cancellations. About one-third of cards have trip cancellation insurance, covering an average of $3,300 in costs, while about 5 percent have travel delay insurance, with average coverage of about $400, according to CardHub. (Likewise, if a traveler has bought travel insurance, follow up with the insurer on filing a claim.)

Follow up with Delta. "After the dust settles, write a polite letter to Delta customer service and ask for some sort of compensation such as a voucher good for future travel, or a couple thousand frequent flier miles," Hobica says.