Flights continue to be canceled as airlines grapple with pandemic-related staffing issues. Thousands of flights have been affected and there is no end in sight to the disruption. As airlines continue to try to accommodate stranded passengers, the Better Business Bureau® (BBB®) provides guidance for travelers who can claim compensation and refunds in the event of cancellation.
When a consumer is flying domestically within the United States, the rules regarding flight delays and cancellations are overseen by the US Department of Transportation. In general, there are no US federal laws requiring airlines to provide passengers with compensation for a delayed flight. In Canada, see guide to flight cancellations and delays. Airlines may have their own policies and may offer better benefits if a flight has been canceled or significantly delayed within the airline’s control. Consumers can enjoy additional benefits if they purchased the flight with a credit card that offers additional travel protections. Check the agreement with the cardholder and with the airline. Consumers should keep receipts for additional purchases, such as a hotel room, so they can submit them to their airline or credit card company for reimbursement later. Typically, almost all domestic airlines will try to accommodate passengers on the next available flight, and sometimes on another carrier.
When flights are canceled by the airline, consumers are still entitled to a full refund. This includes reimbursement for baggage fees or extras, such as extra legroom, for a seat. If the airline offers a voucher instead of a refund, ask about expiration and blackout dates. Airlines may also have additional restrictions on the use of vouchers. Consumers are not obligated to accept vouchers and may require a full refund instead. If the trip has been canceled by the consumer, however, they may not be entitled to a full refund.
BBB asks consumers to keep the following tips in mind when dealing with travel disruptions:
- Check delays – Travelers can check their latest flight information on their carrier’s website or through the airline’s telephone reservation system. Often delays only occur on the day of the flight and the airline must update their flight information within 30 minutes of receiving a status change notice.
- Check carrier and credit card terms – Although federal regulations do not require airlines to reimburse expenses such as rooms or food in the event of a flight cancellation or long delay, the carrier and credit card companies may have different policies. Buy tickets with a credit card that offers travel protection or travel insurance and check each airline’s policies.
- Keep documentation – Keep receipts and records of expenses incurred as a result of a significantly delayed or canceled flight. These may be needed later to recover expenses.
- Check the carrier’s website – Most airlines allow consumers to initiate refunds directly on the carrier’s website. Using a website can help a consumer get a refund or rebook a new trip much faster than waiting for a customer service agent in person or on the phone.
- The rules are different for foreign flights – Flights that have been canceled while in another country will be affected by the laws of that country. Check with the transport department of the local country when traveling abroad.
Sources: BBB.org and BBB of Greater Cleveland
As the Omicron variant spreads, beware of counter coronaviruses. Read BBB alert on COVID-19 testing scams. To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker. To find reputable companies, go to https://www.bbb.org.
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