As winter storm Landon begins its 2,000-mile journey from Texas through the Northeast, it’s causing thousands of flight cancellations for most of the major airlines.
On Thursday, FlightAware had logged over 5,000 cancellations within, into, or out of the U.S., a statistic that is likely to hold its own as Landon continues its trek over the weekend.
Carriers like Southwest and American are canceling more flights than others because many of their flights start in Texas. Carriers like Delta and Allegiant have fewer canceled flights because many of their flights start from Atlanta, where the temperature is currently in the 50s and appears to be out of the storm’s path. Many of Allegiant's flights are also below the storm line.
What you need to know if your flight is canceled
Ever since the pandemic entered our lives, the question of consumer rights when flights are canceled has become a hot topic. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says there are certain things travelers need to know when a flight is delayed or canceled.
The agency notes that if a flight is “delayed," then a traveler is not entitled to money or other compensation from the airline.
“There are no federal laws requiring airlines to provide passengers with money or other compensation when their flights are delayed,” the FAA stated. “Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers. If your flight is experiencing a long delay, ask airline staff if they will pay for meals or a hotel room. While some airlines offer these amenities to passengers, others do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers.”
If a flight is “significantly" delayed, then things start to change a bit. Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation has not put a time limit on how “significantly” is defined. However, the FAA says you may be entitled to a refund in some situations, including a refund for all optional fees associated with the purchase of your ticket (such as baggage fees, seat upgrades, etc.).
As far as a complete flight “cancellation” goes, things are a bit better for travelers. Here are the things the FAA says you need to know if your flight is canceled:
Most airlines will rebook you for free on their next flight to your destination as long as that flight has seats available.
If your flight is canceled and you – not the airline – 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.
Some airlines may prefer you to accept a voucher instead of a refund so that they can keep your money. If that happens and you accept the voucher, ask questions about any restrictions that may apply, such as blackout and expiration dates, advanced booking requirements, and limits on the number of seats.
What about putting you up in a hotel and giving you money for food or cab fare? The FAA says airlines are not required to provide these things when a flight is canceled. “If your flight is canceled, ask the airline staff if they will pay for meals or a hotel room. While some airlines offer these amenities to passengers, others do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers,” the FAA said.
Lastly, an airline “can” put you on another airline’s flight to where you’re going. It’s not a requirement, but if the airline prides itself on good customer service, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask the airline if it will transfer your ticket to another airline that has a flight with available seats.