Airlines are ready to help travelers impacted by winter storms

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Consumers should know their rights when weather affects their trips

Winter weather has arrived in full force in wide areas of the U.S., posing a threat to travel plans.

Recently, a winter storm hit the East Coast, and many airlines were proactive in their efforts to help travelers trying to get to their destinations amid the inclement weather. 

This is positive news for consumers traveling this winter. Many of the major airlines are working with travelers to make the process of rescheduling easier, rather than making a stressful situation more stressful. 

What are the airlines doing?

During this most recent winter storm, United, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit, and Delta all sent out travel advisories to travelers who were affected by the storms. 

Here’s a look at some of the specifics of each of the airlines: 

  • United: Travelers were free to reschedule their flights without change fees or fare differences. However, there were some stipulations: tickets must be in the same cabin and between the same cities as the original booking, the new flight must be United, and new tickets had to be for flights within one week. 

  • American: Change fees were waived if tickets are rebooked in the same cabin, new tickets are for American Airlines flights, origin and destination city stay the same, changes are booked within one week, and original tickets were bought before a specified date. 

  • JetBlue: Travelers have between three and four days to rebook their tickets without change fees, and consumers’ tickets must have been purchased before a specified date. JetBlue also allows travelers to get a full refund to the original form of payment in the event of bad weather. 

  • Spirit: Change/fare difference is waived for rebookings scheduled within one week of inclement weather. After that period, the change fee is waived, but travelers will have to pay a fare difference if it’s applicable. 

  • Delta: To avoid change fees, Delta travelers must rebook in the same cabin as their original tickets. Travelers can cancel their reservations for credit towards a new airline ticket that must be scheduled within one year. However, if there is a fare difference, consumers will have to pay that. Delta also gives travelers between five and six days to reschedule their original flights without penalty, and tickets must be booked by a specified date. 

Know your flight rights during inclement weather

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has publicized consumers’ rights when flying, including when bad weather is expected. 

According to the DOT, you may find new tickets on a different airline but there is no rule requiring airlines to pay for a flight change to a different airline – during bad weather or not. 

“If your flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook you on their first flight to your destination on which space is available, at no additional charge,” the DOT states

The DOT also identifies when airlines are responsible for compensating travelers for delayed or canceled flights. With domestic flights, passengers will only receive compensation if they were bumped from a flight that was oversold. 

However, there’s more wiggle room with international flights. Travelers can file claims with their airlines to get money back for any expenses incurred when a flight is delayed or canceled. 

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