What are My Rights if My Flight is Cancelled?

Flight cancellations and delays are a part of air travel. Sometimes, there may occur uncertain circumstances with a commercial airline carrier that could have a direct or indirect affect on passengers (customers). Here you will know “Rights if My Flight is Cancelled”.

Generally speaking, there are different laws that control passenger rights, especially when it comes to unwanted problems like flight delays, flights cancelled, overbooked/oversold flights, lost baggage etc. When flying within the United States, you are not eligible for compensation for inconvenience such as a cancelled or delayed flight, unless you choose not to fly. In that case, you will receive a refund toward flight cancellation, which is a full refund of your flight ticket.

On the other hand, when flying to and from Europe, or within Europe, the only time you will not be eligible for compensation due to inconvenience is, if the delay was caused due to extraordinary circumstances or if the airline carrier issued notice 14 days prior to the flight’s cancellation, regardless of the reason for cancellation. However, in all other cases under EU’s policy, you are entitled to compensation in the event of your flight’s delay. Most flights to Europe from the US and Canada will fall into the largest compensation category.

In this guide, we shall provide you with useful information on what to do if your flight is cancelled.

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Rights if My Flight is Cancelled

Factors that Cause Cancelling of Flights

An airline carrier or an airport can cancel their flight(s) due to several reasons or extraordinary circumstances. Such circumstances are beyond the control of airline carriers and airports.

Given below are few possibilities that can cause many airline carriers to abruptly cancel, or perhaps, delay their flight schedule.

  • Bad weather
  • Natural disaster
  • Medical emergency
  • Air Traffic Control restrictions
  • Technical or mechanical error
  • Strike by staff
  • Forced by government entity
  • Political unrest
  • Act of terrorism
  • Other unprecedented events

These are extraordinary circumstances, where flight cancellations or delays are bound to take place.

As you may already know that since March 2020, almost all domestic and international flights in airports all over the world were cancelled due to the outbreak of a fatal contagious disease called COVID-19 (aka coronavirus). This is one such unprecedented event that not only caused economic loss to the aviation industry, but also significantly affected the travelling needs of passengers.

Although few airline carriers have now resumed their services globally, the risk still prevails as the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet been contained completely.

Impact of cancellation & Rights if My Flight is Cancelled

As mentioned earlier, passengers are the ones that are directly or indirectly affected when a commercial airline carrier cancels a flight, especially without prior information. Thus, passengers can have a deep impact and to compensate for this, many airline operators will offer certain benefits so as to retain their customers.

However, such benefits will significantly differ from one country or nation to another. Therefore, it is suggested that you read the flight cancellation policy of the airline carrier that you are travelling with.

Rights or Benefits Entitled to Passengers toward Flight Cancellation

The rights or benefits that are entitled to passengers, in the event of their flights being cancelled by the airport or the airline carrier, may also vary among the airline operators and the nation (being the source and destination cities).

For instance, if you are residing in the United States or Canada, airliners that operate in these nations may have more or less similar policies toward entitlement to passengers, if their flights are cancelled by the airline carriers (not by passengers).

Entitlement to Compensation

If your flight is delayed or rerouted, then you will be offered free refreshments and two free phone calls, if there is a considerable waiting time between flights. If your waiting time is longer than 12 hours, then you are entitled to a stay at a hotel, along with refreshments and ground transportation to and from your hotel. This is what is referred to as compensation in the consumer laws.

You may also request for compensation that you feel is fair, by contacting their customer service, or you may visit the airliner’s website, while you wait and request a refund or an alternate flight.

Entitlement to Refund

There are certain airline operators that usually rely on passengers to request them for what they want than offering them with all available options. For example, Delta Air Lines’ policy obligates itself to cancel the passenger’s remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket and unused ancillary fees in the original form of payment. This is done on passenger’s request. Passengers can then use the money that has been refunded to them to book another flight.

Entitlement to Alternate Flight on Same Route

Airline carriers are responsible to help you rebook your flight, in the event of your flight’s cancellation. The airline carrier will attempt to place you on their next available flight with an open seat. You may also approach the gate agents that are available to assist you in boarding the next available flight. Or, you can simply avoid the trouble and waiting time by contacting the airliner’s customer service to assist you in finding the next available flight for departure.

Even though there are no longer federal requirements that guarantee compensation to passengers in the event of a flight’s cancellation or delay, however, leaving passengers stranded is not fair either. Therefore, most airlines place passengers on their next available flight, while a few airline carriers also does the booking on passenger’s behalf that is in accordance to their respective conditions of carriage. Airlines like American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines, also offer meal vouchers, accommodation and ground transportation to passengers, in the event of overnight delays.

Entitlement to Care and Assistance

Airline carriers have different versions of their policy that are defined in the airline’s contract of carriage. This is with regard to meals, accommodation and ground transportation vouchers, in the event of a flight’s cancellation or delay. Generally, if the delay is caused due to bad or severe weather conditions, vouchers are not common, however, if a flight’s delay of more than 4 hours is caused due to some kind of mechanical error, then the vouchers can be obtained by passengers.

In the United States, passengers can request for vouchers to compensate the costs for such unplanned needs. But, again, the fulfilment of this request is entirely up to the airliner, if they will provide these to their passengers.

In the EU, passengers are entitled to two free telephone calls or two free telefaxes, fax or e-mail messages can also be utilised. Vouchers are not voluntary in the EU as they are in the United States. Meal, accommodation and ground transportation services are rights that passengers have in the event of flight cancellations or delays. The airline carrier also determines if you qualify for depending on the length of the disruption.

Entitlement to Accommodation

Airline carriers have different versions of their policy that are defined in the airline’s contract of carriage. This is with regard to meals, accommodation and ground transportation vouchers, in the event of a flight’s cancellation or delay. Generally, if the delay is caused due to bad or severe weather conditions, vouchers are not common, however, if a flight’s delay of more than 4 hours is caused due to some kind of mechanical error, then the vouchers can be obtained by passengers.

In the United States, passengers can request for vouchers to compensate the costs for such unplanned needs. But, again, the fulfilment of this request is entirely up to the airliner, if they will provide these to their passengers.

In the EU, passengers are entitled to two free telephone calls or two free telefaxes, fax or e-mail messages can also be utilised. Vouchers are not voluntary in the EU as they are in the United States. Meal, accommodation and ground transportation services are rights that passengers have in the event of flight cancellations or delays. The airline carrier also determines if you qualify for depending on the length of the disruption.

Entitlement to Ground Transportation

Airline carriers have different versions of their policy that are defined in the airline’s contract of carriage. This is with regard to meals, accommodation and ground transportation vouchers, in the event of a flight’s cancellation or delay. Generally, if the delay is caused due to bad or severe weather conditions, vouchers are not common, however, if a flight’s delay of more than 4 hours is caused due to some kind of mechanical error, then the vouchers can be obtained by passengers.

In the United States, passengers can request for vouchers to compensate the costs for such unplanned needs. But, again, the fulfilment of this request is entirely up to the airliner, if they will provide these to their passengers.

In the EU, passengers are entitled to two free telephone calls or two free telefaxes, fax or e-mail messages can also be utilised. Vouchers are not voluntary in the EU as they are in the United States. Meal, accommodation and ground transportation services are rights that passengers have in the event of flight cancellations or delays. The airline carrier also determines if you qualify for depending on the length of the disruption.

Policies for Flight Cancellation and Delay of Major U.S. Airline Carriers

Due to the fact that the flight’s cancellation or delay policy varies from one airline to another, there are, however, few policies that are somewhat alike for some major airline carriers. This is not a comprehensive list and policies are subject to change by their respective airline carriers without prior notice.

American Airlines

If a flight is cancelled or a delay caused a passenger to miss his/her connecting flight, then American Airlines can rebook you on the next available flight with open seats. Also, any checked bags will be rerouted after checking-in to the new flight. The new flight’s information can be found online, via mobile app or at the airport’s kiosk.

Delta Air Lines

In the event of a flight’s cancellation, diversion, a delay that is longer than 90 minutes, or delay resulting in a missed connecting flight, then passengers can request to cancel their ticket and get a partial refund. However, if a passenger does not cancel his/her ticket, then Delta is obliged to place him/her on the next flight with open seats in the same fare class, though there are some exceptions where passengers will be offered seats in a lower or higher fare class. Also, if necessary, Delta may rebook the passenger on a different airline carrier.

JetBlue

Passengers on flights that have been cancelled by JetBlue will either get a refund or will be booked on the next available flight. If a flight is cancelled due to a controlled irregularity (problems within JetBlue’s control) and there is no alternate flight available within an hour of departure, then JetBlue can offer a $50 or $100 credit to passengers, depending on when the flight was cancelled. For very lengthy delays (more than 3 hours), JetBlue will give $75 to $250 credits to passengers, depending on the length of the delay.

Southwest Airlines

In the event of cancelled flights or severe delays, Southwest will either put passengers on the next available flight or will refund the unused portion of the fare for passengers who request it. The refund will either be in cash if the ticket is refundable or in airline credits if the ticket is non-refundable.

United Airlines

If a Force Majeure Event (events that are out of the airline’s control) occurs and results in significant flight cancellation or delay, United Airlines may re-route passengers on a different United flight, on a different carrier, with ground transportation, or will issue a refund of the unused fares. If a cancellation or delay occurs because of irregular operations by United Airlines, the airline will put passengers on the next flight to their destination. If there are no United flights available they may use a different carrier or offer ground transportation.