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Monday, March 4, 2019

Know Your Rights When Your Flight is Cancelled, Changed or even Delayed! Knowledge and Persistence Helps!

In the United States, airlines are not required to compensate passengers when flights are delayed or cancelled.  Compensation is required by U.S. law only when certain passengers are “bumped” from a flight that is oversold.  

You suddenly receive an email that your flight for this summer is cancelled.  The airline has automatically re booked you for the flight of their choosing.  Do you have to accept the new flight?  No - you have some, but not many rights according to the US Department of Transportation.

You might be surprised to find that, in the US no federal law or regulation specifies what, if any, rights you have when an airline cancels your flight.

Know Your Rights When Your Flight is Cancelled!  Knowledge and Persistence Helps!

With cancellations, your rights derive only from the airlines' contracts of carriage, and relevant principles of general contract law. Since no federal regulations apply, your rights are not uniform and will vary from airline to airline.

All airline contracts go to extremes to make sure you understand that, airlines do not guarantee schedules, AND those airlines are never responsible for consequential damages — losses you might suffer because you don't arrive at your destination on time or at all.  Interestingly, you cannot willingly miss a leg of your flight as a Lufthansa passenger who is being sued by the airline for what is known as "skiplagging" is finding out....

In a routine cancellation, you have two basic contractual rights on any airline, subject to minor variations: either a seat on your original airline's next available flight, or a refund of the unused portion of your ticket. Some but not many airlines go beyond those bare-bones rights. In addition, most airlines promise various forms of assistance if they cancel your flight for a reason within the line's control, but not when they cancel the flight because of bad weather or some other force majeure factor.  What should you do if your flight is suddenly cancelled?

Know Your Rights When Your Flight is Cancelled!  Knowledge and Persistence Helps!

Recommendations if the US airline cancels a flight while you are already at the airport:

  1. call the Airline immediately by whatever means you have available
  2. If you have status, call the dedicated line for passengers with status.  You should always have the phone number stored in your contacts in case you don't have web service available. 
  3. Get in line to speak to an agent as quickly as possible.  Don't delay but do this while you are on the phone.  
  4. If you must stay overnight in a location, question what the airline is prepared to offer you, from vouchers to toiletries, shuttles.  Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for passengers whose flights have been cancelled. 
  5. Ask the airline or check online to see if another carrier has open seats and then ask if the first airline will transfer your ticket to that carrier.  Remember, however, that airlines are not required to do this.  While airlines are not required to put you on another airline’s flight, they can and sometimes do, so it does not hurt to politely ask your airline if it will transfer your ticket to another airline that has a flight with available seats. 
  6. Ask if ground transportation to your destination is possible
  7. Ask if flying from another regional airport if available. For example, in NYC metro area there are 3 airports where you may be able to fly from. 
Know Your Rights When Your Flight is Cancelled!  Knowledge and Persistence Helps!

Recommendations if a flight is cancelled or changed before your departure date:

  1. Don't automatically accept the re booked flight.
  2. Know what flight options work for you before you book your flight.  Use google flights to search available flights for the date cancelled - even if they are more expensive.  Remember often there is more than one way to get to your destination and most airlines have more than one hub to connect through.
  3. If you have status, call the dedicated line for passengers with status.  
  4. Be persistent.  The agent often only sees the first things the airline offers taking you through the same hub or connections.  Be ready to ask for the agent to look at other hub connections and you may find a better flight without being charged more. 
For either situation, if your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets.  You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.  

If your flight is delayed:

Your rights as a passenger for delayed flights in the US are limited, but there may be some situations when you are entitled to compensation or refunds.  Read the Department of Transportation information about flight delays.

You have more rights if your flight involves the European Union (EU)!

If you are flying on an EU flight, your rights are much better than if flying within the US, and sometimes you have these rights even if you are flying a NON-EU airline.  This table courtesy of, summarizes your EU rights according to the type of airline.  

courtesy of

If you are unsure about your rights after a delayed or cancelled flight that involves either flying to, within or from the EU, read your rights at the official EU website, or use a service such as where a fee may apply.  Often you can make your claim by emailing the customer service department of the airline, but it is best to know your rights before you email.  LTD recommends quoting the official EU website information in your email. 

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