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Know exactly what your options are when the dreaded cancel sign appears on the departure board
We all dread flight cancellations, and this year has left most of us particularly nervous. Besides the impact on vacation, the stress of what to do when your flight is canceled can be overwhelming. Airlines are often hesitant to help at all, and you won’t get most of the compensatory offers they are supposed to offer.
Although the government is trying to support us a little more, it is important to know your rights as a passenger and checking what your airline claims it will do for you can put a lot of worry to rest.
With that in mind, here’s what each of the big four US airlines will do for you if your flight is canceled.
It should be noted that these situations, unless otherwise stated, relate to a delay or cancellation caused by the airline and not by weather or other conditions beyond the carrier’s control. There are ways to receive compensation beyond those listed below, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll only focus on the top offers.
The largest airline in the United States. Its most basic guarantee in the event of a canceled or delayed flight resulting in a missed connection is to rebook you on the next available flight with seats, only with American or one of their partners. Unfortunately, despite being the largest, their compensation offers are more in line with budget carriers.
American recently made significant changes to its refund policy. Unfortunately, this is not good news for passengers. The company said it was now only required to reimburse the remaining part of the flights flown. If it’s a full round trip, you get a full refund. But if the rematch is canceled they can just refund you and leave you to fend for yourself.
It is also important to note that they only use US flights or partners. If you take a less frequent international route, you may be stuck for an entire day before flying. Domestic flights are less risky.
Although vague on the specifics of what would be offered, American says it will make every reasonable effort to provide snacks, water and available restrooms in the event of a delay that results in “long onboard delays.” on the ground (other than on an active runway or taxiway) without access to a terminal door for more than 2 hours. So if you meet these specs, start asking for help.
From what can be seen on the website, full meal vouchers are only offered when a delay is over three hours or a diversion is longer than three hours.
American will only provide accommodation if they are unable to provide a modified flight that takes you to your destination on the scheduled day. According to its website, it offers:
- A voucher for an approved hotel with rooms available if you are delayed overnight.
- Transportation to a hotel and back to the airport by hotel shuttle/third-party transportation service, or transportation voucher.
The website also points out that booking a hotel independently could result in no refund being offered to the customer. Many people online have complained that the process can take hours in person and that it’s more efficient to approach someone online.
Delta is much more comprehensive in its offerings, making it easier to understand the options for its inconvenienced customers. In addition to the official rules of conduct in the event of cancellation, Delta grants its representatives the discretion to offer compensation to passengers in the form of gifts, travel vouchers or even points. So if you’re having trouble with Delta, they may try to smooth things over for you a bit beyond their legal requirements.
If your flight is cancelled, Delta will immediately attempt to rebook you. Alternatively, you can claim the remaining portion of your ticket as credits for future flights or as a refund. If the cancellation occurs before you have used part of the ticket, they will offer you a refund to the payment method used to purchase the ticket within 24 hours.
Similar to American Airlines, Delta “will provide a meal or meal vouchers, if a cancellation or delay results in a wait of 3 hours or more beyond the scheduled departure time.” So again, if the weather exceeds that, you should be on the airline’s case.
Delta shines in the hotel compensation aspect. If a cancellation or delay results in an overnight stay, Carrier will provide complimentary accommodations at a Delta-affiliated property and provide transportation to such accommodations. If these hotels are not available at the customer’s airport, he will reimburse the customer’s reasonable hotel and transportation costs. In the worst case scenario, if there are no hotels available, they will offer credit for a reasonable hotel stay in the area.
United recently updated some of its policies, along with most major carriers, after government pressure. This works in favor of United customers, who will now have additional protection.
United is quite flexible with its cancellation refund policies. Like other airlines, passengers are offered credits for future flights or a refund based on the remaining portion of their ticket. Again, this means that if they stole the first stage, the second stage will be refunded.
United will also send you back to your home airport if your connecting flights get too hectic and offer you a refund at this point as well.
United will now follow the same rules as Delta and American, offering meal vouchers to delayed passengers. It is unclear how many or if they can be used at any airport restaurant.
United has a number of partner hotels where passengers will be accommodated free of charge in the event of cancellation or delay overnight. If problems arise beyond the airline’s control, they won’t be able to accommodate you, but they said they can offer discounted hotel rates and even toiletries if your luggage can’t reach you.
The Southwest is a favorite among many travelers, but does its compensation match the others? In some ways yes, and in others not so much.
Southwest will refund the unused portion of your ticket like others do. But unfortunately, that’s where it ends. Its representatives will try to book you on the next available Southwest flight, but do not list any partners or other airlines. In this case, you might consider a long delay. If you choose to travel with another airline, you will be responsible for the difference between the fare you paid and the new flight.
The carrier will even offer reimbursement if the cancellation is out of their control, which is a good idea.
Fortunately, Southwest has also adopted the same rules as other airlines and now includes the three-hour delay limit. Once you hit three, customers are eligible for airline meal vouchers. If vendors who work with Southwest Vouchers are unavailable, Customer Service will consider reimbursement for reasonable purchases.
According to their website, Southwest seems to offer similar hosting setups to others. They say “on request”, so don’t expect to be approached for compensation; you will have to do it yourself. If there are no immediately available hotels that work with the company, they will offer reimbursement and travel vouchers.
This article originally appeared on Travel Off Path. For the latest breaking news that will affect your upcoming trip, please visit: Traveloffpath.com
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