Although several hacks can make flying more accessible, and many airports are investing a lot of money to ensure their flights are on time, some things are out of control, such as snowstorms and hurricanes. On top of that, the staff shortage at airports around the globe is bringing problems to travelers, especially during summer.
Each airline has rules regarding delays and cancellations, but travelers have rights they're often unaware of. As bad as it is to find out their traveling plans were messed up already at the airport, the most important thing is to find out what to do next.
What Companies Owe Travelers When The Flight Is Canceled
According to the US Department of Transportation, travelers are entitled to a refund when the airline cancels a flight, regardless of the reason, and chooses not to fly. Yet, it doesn't include extra expenses travelers might have had, such as meals, hotels, transportation, or car rental.
Travelers can also request a refund when there's a significant delay, but there isn't a definition of what can be considered long enough to ask for compensation, so the decision is made case-by-case. The decision depends on the flight length, delay, and other circumstances. It's recommended to ask if the airlines pay for meals and hotel rooms when there's a delay, but they are not obliged to do it.
Traveling Within The European Union
People traveling within the European Union can also expect a refund when there's a cancelation, thanks to the EU261. If the airline cannot replace the tickets, the clients are entitled to a refund within seven days, which can be made in cash, bank transfer, or voucher. Depending on the circumstances, travelers are entitled to compensations between €250 and €600 per person.
The EU261 is valid for flights within the European Union and the UK or departing from those countries.
The rules are different when travelers have to give up their seats involuntarily. It happens when the airline books passengers over their seat capacity, and it's also called "involuntarily denied boarding." The companies are allowed to do that, but first, they must ask clients to give up their seats voluntarily.
Voluntarily Giving Up Your Seat
Before giving up their seats, travelers must know their rights and compensations, including vouchers or money. If the airline offers a voucher or free tickets as compensation, they must tell passengers if there are restrictions on using them. The US Department of Transportation recommends travelers make essential questions before accepting the offer:
- Does the airline cover extra expenses travelers may have, such as accommodation, transfers, and meals?
- Is there an expiration date for the ticket or voucher?
- Is it possible to use them on holidays?
- Can travelers use it for international flights?
Involuntarily Giving Up Your Seat
When enough volunteers don't give up their seats, the airline can decide which passengers will give up on their seats using their own criteria, which can be based on ticket price, check-in time, or passengers' frequent flyer status. Yet, they must present a written document informing their rights and how they selected the passengers who got bumped.
Travelers who did the check-in and were on time at their departure gate are entitled to a refund if they get bumped. The airline also owes them if they cannot guarantee their clients will arrive at their final destination within one hour of their original flight.
The ticket price and the delay length define the compensation, and they must pay travelers within 24 hours. According to the US Department of Transportation, if the delays are between one and two hours, travelers are entitled to receive 200% of the one-way fare, but airlines can limit it to $775 if the amount is higher. If travelers have to wait more than two hours, they are entitled to receive 400% of the one-way fare. In this case, airlines can establish a limit of $1,550.
The First Thing To Do When The Travel Is Canceled
Before booking a ticket, it's always interesting to check their cancellation policy, as it can be different for each airline. For travelers at the airport, many airlines have offices at the airport where clients might look for assistance, but they often have to wait a long time. It's also possible to reach the airlines through their social media or phone:
- Alaska: 1-800-252-7522
- Allegiant: 1-702-505-8888
- American: 1-800-433-7300
- Avelo: 1-346-616-9500
- Breeze: No phone number available
- Delta: 1-800-221-1212
- Frontier: 1-801-401-9000
- JetBlue: 1-800-538-2583
- Southwest: 1-800-435-9792
- Spirit: 1-855-728-3555
- Sun Country: 1-651-905-2737
- United: 1-800-864-8331
Travelers who have booked tickets with a travel agency should contact them directly. It's also interesting to hire travel insurance when booking the tickets.
Credit Card Travel Insurance
Some credit cards offer travel insurance for travel-related purchases made with their cards, and it's super helpful when there's a delay or cancellation at the airport. Those insurances might cover non-refundable tickets even when unforeseen circumstances, such as cancellations due to weather conditions and expenses caused by the delay: extra meals, car rental, and hotel room.
Each credit card has its policy and values. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card covers up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for pre-paid when there's a cancellation.