“At some point, flights were just canceled and no one was alerted,” Ms. Wareus said. “We spent close to 10 hours in line and they were still checking people in, which was absurd.”

Ms. Wareus found a hotel and booked an American Airlines flight home, shelling out $1,300 that she doubts she’ll recover.

FlyersRights, a nonprofit that supports passengers’ rights, recommends that passengers, when they write to airlines, copy the Department of Transportation in order to pressure the agency to order adequate reserve equipment and crew minimums and to force airlines to accommodate fliers stranded by other carriers.

“That used to be the rule and now it’s strictly voluntary,” Paul Hudson, the president of FlyersRights, said. “Now most large airlines will not honor the ticket from a low-cost airline when there’s a cancellation.”

In July, when her 8 p.m. flight from Los Angeles to Albuquerque was canceled at 2 a.m. because of a mechanical failure and rescheduled for the following day, Lani Rowe, who works in social media in Taos, N.M., received a hotel voucher. After a $30 taxi ride, she discovered that the hotel did not recognize the voucher and, regardless, was sold out. Back at the airport around 4 a.m., she was told by the airline that she might be reimbursed if she could find a hotel.

“That’s a whole lot of maybes that I don’t want to deal with,” she said, choosing to stay at the airport, where, the next morning, she asked to be put on an American flight to Santa Fe, N.M., close to her home. She was successful.

There’s no guarantee an airline can accommodate a routing change, but a polite, realistic and unemotional request may help. Bonnie Richter, a real estate executive from Detroit, had a tight connection through Amsterdam recently when trying to get home. Rob Stern, a travel agent based in Raleigh, N.C., who runs RobPlansYourTrip.com, and is an acquaintance of Ms. Richter, suggested she use the chat function to talk to the airline about booking a different flight because representatives manning those can handle multiple conversations at once.