Whether you’re a frequent flier or whether you only fly once or twice a year it is worth knowing exactly where you stand if your flight is canceled or delayed. Recent changes in regulations have meant that airlines can no longer refuse to compensate passengers by hiding under the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ umbrella when the problem is in fact technical. Now when you fly, whether it’s from or within the US or elsewhere, you’re protected by a code of practice that takes notice of the actual circumstances. For example if your flight is canceled for any reason other than war or natural disaster you will be covered by the airline or travel agent’s policy, depending on how you booked. It’s worth booking through a reputable company for extra security and peace of mind.
What to expect if your flight is canceled
If your flight is canceled, for any reason, the airline or tour operator has a legal and moral obligation to make proper restitution. Normally your airline will offer you a full refund or rebook your flight depending on availability and their booking policy. Do be aware that once you accept a refund the airline doesn’t need to provide you with options for alternative travel or any other form of help.
However, if you find yourself stranded, for example if your flight was late at night, the airline will usually provide an emergency care package in the form of phone calls and food and beverages and an overnight hotel room if necessary. Sometimes the airline will organize these items for you, but in other instances they will cover any costs if you sort it out yourself. Do find out what the airline will and won’t pay for, and do keep all receipts and charge slips.
If you opt to travel on a new date, then it is your responsibility to rebook ongoing connections or accommodation. Be sure to inform hotels, car hire companies and other airlines right away if you find that your flight has been canceled so that you aren’t classed as a ‘no show’ and charged the full rate for these services. The only way to recover any losses that you might incur through being unable to use pre-booked accommodation or transport as a result of your canceled flight is by claiming from your travel insurance.
What happens if your canceled flight is part of a package deal?
If your canceled flight is part of a package vacation deal, it will be up to your tour operator to take care of you. If your outward journey is affected your tour operator should offer to refund the cost of your entire holiday, or rebook the same package vacation at the same cost on another available date. If it is your return trip then you will be offered the next available flight and depending on the length of time your tour operator will organize food and drinks, phone calls and if necessary, accommodation. Don’t be tempted to book your own accommodation or make your own plans for meals, always speak to your tour operator first.
Do the same rules apply if my flight is delayed?
Most airlines will only compensate you for delays if the length of time you are required to wait is extensive. How much compensation you might be entitled to can also depend on the length of your flight. If it is within the US and constitutes a delay of less than three hours you will probably only be entitled to a small sum, if anything. Policies vary from airline to airline so it is worth checking in advance if you feel that this might be an issue. However, if the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances such as a hurricane or flooding or an event beyond the control of the airline like a strike you will not be able to claim extra compensation for your delay. However, the airline is still obligated to take care of you to a certain extent so food and drinks will most probably be made available.
If you are experiencing a longer delay that is not caused by extraordinary circumstances, for example a technical or staffing problem, or weather conditions such as fog that are not classed as extreme your airline or tour operator will ensure that you are properly cared for. This will usually mean that you are offered accommodation till your flight can depart if it is likely to be overnight, or an alternative route with the same carrier or with a partner airline.
It’s worth keeping a note of events and of the times that they took place if you find yourself stuck at the airport due to cancellation or delay. This will allow you to make any necessary claims on your travel insurance more easily, and will also provide a record should the airline not live up to your expectations.