Travel Made Easy: Cancellations and delays

Not my usual topic but important information for all air travelers. If you are armed with this information, it may help you understand the rules for airline cancellations or delays. Important: under US law, airline flight schedules are not guaranteed. The airlines are not obliged to provide any compensation for delayed or canceled flights – even when it is their fault.

What if the flight has been delayed or cancelled? If your flight is delayed or canceled for bad weather, this is bad news. You can stand in line to be rebooked, try to call the airline or download the airline app to try to rebook your flight. Any expenses you incur as a result of a cancellation are your expenses. If you decide not to travel – at all - as a result of the cancellation for weather, go to the airline website and apply for a refund.

What if the delay is because of a mechanical problem?If the airline admits fault for the delay, you may get some compensation in the form of vouchers for hotels and meals. Operative word here is “may”. Don’t assume you will get a voucher for a hotel or meals until you ask. And don’t get a hotel room and think the airlines will reimburse you. That probably won’t happen. Remember according to US law, airline flight schedules are not guaranteed

  • Exceptions: if you are in Europe and attempting to fly back to the US, EU rules apply, even if flying a US-based carrier. In the EU, if your flight is delayed more than 3 hours or canceled, you would be entitled to a 600 Euro (USD $700) payout from the airline.

What if you are involuntarily denied boarding or get “bumped”.This occurs when the airline has overbooked the flight. If you are bumped from your flight and the airlines cannot get you to your destination within an hour of your original arrival time, you can be compensated in cash up to$1350.

  • Exceptions: if, when you arrive at the gate, the gate agent asks for volunteers to be bumped and offers a voucher and you accept the voucher, you are not entitled to further compensation.

What can I do? Many times passengers feel helpless as a result of airlines actions and because the US law protects the airlines, at times there is just not much. However, I suggest:

  1. Add both your email and a cell phone number to your airline reservations. This way if something occurs with the flight's departure, you would be made aware of any changes. Airlines can contact you to remind you to check-in for the flight. In addition, in case of anticipated bad weather, airlines will issue “waivers” so you can change your flight without penalties.
  2. Check in 24 hours in advance of departure. See the “involuntary bumped” compensation rule above.
  3. Download the airline’s app. If something changes in your flight schedule, you should first try to speak to a person but the phone on-hold wait times are legendary. If the phone or in-person fails, you can go to the airline app and see if you can rebook your flight.
  4. Purchase travel insurance. If you end up stuck somewhere and incur expenses for accommodations, most travel insurance covers delays up to a certain amount per day. Check your policy.

One personal caveat: if you absolutely, positively must be at your destination by a specific time because the cruise ship leaves, tour departs, etc., travel one day early. Bad weather is not just ice and snow. Thunder and lightning delay as many flights as ice and snow.

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About Kate DeLosso

Kate DeLosso is a travel professional with over 20 years of experience traveling the world on land and by ship, visiting over 30 countries with an emphasis on travel in Asia. Kate DeLosso Travel is a home based travel agency that helps individual travelers and groups explore the US, Europe and Asia. A number of years ago, Kate had stroke and had to re-learn how to walk, type and drive a car. With a mobility handicap, she became aware that travel was “different” for people with physical challenges. One of her missions has become to share the knowledge accumulated after 20 years of traveling the world as a mobility challenged person. Kate DeLosso is a Certified Travel Counselor, Special Interest Travel Specialist and an Accredited Cruise Counselor and founder of Kate DeLosso Travel. She has lived and worked in Chadds Ford since 1999.

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