What does my airline owe me if it cancels my flight?
Airlines do not guarantee flight schedules, so flight times are subject to change. In most cases, you shouldn’t expect much if a flight is cancelled. Airlines cancel flights for many reasons, and the compensation you’re entitled to depends on the circumstances of the cancellation.
Some airlines will attempt to contact passengers if the flight is canceled prior to the day of departure, using contact information from the reservations process. And, airlines suggest that passengers confirm their itineraries at least 24 hours prior to departure.
If an airline cancels for reasons beyond its control (e.g., weather, air traffic delays, or a strike), it will not, in most cases, offer compensation to delayed passengers. However, if a flight is cancelled due to events within the airline’s control (e.g., required maintenance, lack of flight crew), travelers may be entitled to compensation.
The first step airlines make is to rebook you on the next flight with available seats, in the same class of service as your original flight, at no additional charge. Some (but not all) airlines will rebook passengers in a higher class of service if the original class is full. If your ticket is for business or first class and space is not available, an airline will often rebook you in coach class and offer a partial refund. And, if you opt not to fly due to the cancelled flight, you will often be issued a refund for the unused portion of the ticket. If there aren’t any available seats with your carrier, it will often arrange for you to fly another carrier to your destination.
RELATED: Tight Airport Connections: What You Need to Know About Making a Connecting Flight
If your flight was the last flight of the day, or if the delay will be more than four hours between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., many airlines will often provide compensation, including overnight accommodations, a phone card, and meal vouchers. However, some no-frill airlines may not offer compensation. If you’re unsure of your airline’s policy, it’s smart to ask an airline employee if the airline will provide meal vouchers or other compensation. On most airlines, if you live in the city from which the flight is departing, you will not be eligible for compensation.
To avoid the hassle of dealing with a flight cancellation (or delay), try booking flights that depart early in the day. That way, if your flight is cancelled, you will have more options for being rebooked on a later flight. And, avoid connecting flights in places with inclement weather, such as New England during the winter or Florida during hurricane season.
Traveling? Aim for a Carry-On That Does MORE
3 words: lightweight, durable, & multi-functional. The Carry-On from Away makes traveling that much easier, especially with its removable, TSA-approved battery for your electronics.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Air Passenger Rights: A Guide to Your Rights in the U.S. and Europe
- 10 Ways Airlines Are Like Your Ex
- America’s 10 Busiest Airports
Last updated: August 10, 2015
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Top Fares From
Today's Top Travel Deals
Brought to you by ShermansTravel
Globus Tours to Greece, Ireland, France...
Avoya Travelvacation $499+
The Caribbean: Luxe, All-Inclusive Sandals Resorts...
Avoya Travelhotel $489+
Azamara Cruises Around the World w/Free...
Avoya Travelcruise $629+