So far today, nearly 6,000 flights have been cancelled, and it’s not even noon yet. That means hundreds of thousands of potentially stranded passengers. Will you know what to do if it happens to you?
First thing to know: What do airlines owe travelers when they cancel a flight? You’re not going to like the answer: Nothing. But they will make an effort to book you on the next available flight at no extra cost. That’s the case whether you’re stranded midway through your trip or are about to embark.
Watch Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson explain the rules in this video. Then read about nine ways to cope with a cancellation.
The federal site USA.gov says:
If your flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook you on the earliest flight possible to your destination, at no additional charge. If you’re able to find a flight on another airline, ask the first airline to endorse your ticket to the new carrier. This could save you a fare increase, but there is no rule requiring them to do this.
Airlines do have incentive to help you. Says USA Today:
Your airline ticket represents a contract between you and the airline; therefore, standard contract rules apply, leaving airlines open to a potential lawsuit if they don’t make reasonable efforts to fulfill their side of the bargain. For that reason – and to keep customers happy – most airlines will try to rebook you as soon as possible, as space and weather permit.
However, some federal rules do apply. The U.S. Department of Transportation explains, “If your flight is canceled or diverted or experiences a lengthy delay, and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation — even for nonrefundable tickets — and for any bag fee that you paid.”