Flight cancellations may persist: airline refunds, travel policies

Thousands of flight cancellations and delays over the weekend have drawn the ire of travellers, who have complained on social media of waiting on hold or queuing for hours for flights to be rescheduled and to be blocked for days.

The airlines cited poor weather in Florida and other issues, including a labor dispute and a “technology glitch” at airports across the country.

The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport said Monday bookings appeared to have increased over the weekend, and the Wayne County Airport Authority, which manages and operates Detroit Metropolitan Airport, “there may have been customers at the airport overnight.

Groups around the world are now warning that a surge in Easter travel as coronavirus fears ease could overwhelm airports, and airlines in the United States are not required to compensate passengers.

“When planning a trip, passengers should keep in mind that airlines do not guarantee their schedules,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said. “Some issues, such as bad weather, air traffic delays and mechanical problems, are difficult to predict and often beyond the airlines’ control.”

Compensation is only required by US law when certain passengers are removed from an oversold flight, the Department of Transportation said. Passengers traveling between or within foreign countries may be protected by the laws of another country.

FlightAware, a website that tracks flights, said there were major disruptions last weekend at several Florida airports, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando, as well as problems in Baltimore, New York and other airports nationwide.

More than 3,500 US flights have been canceled, thousands more have been delayed.

JetBlue, Southwest, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, Spirit and American Airlines were the hardest hit, according to FlightAware, with JetBlue and Spirit canceling a third of Sunday’s scheduled flights.

The wave of cancellations came as air travel rebounded from the pandemic, with strong demand for spring break flights. Southwest Airlines cited “weather and airspace congestion”, as well as a “technology issue”.

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Alaska Airlines said weekend flight cancellations that began Friday affected more than 37,000 customers. The airline declined to say why it canceled flights, but did mention contract negotiations with its pilots.

Here are some tips from the transportation department:

Is compensation required?

Each airline has its own policies on what they will do for delayed passengers. If your flight has a long delay, ask the airline staff if they will pay for meals or a hotel room. Some airlines provide these amenities to passengers, others do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers.

How long is the delay?

Airlines are, however, required to provide passengers with information about a change in flight status if the flight is due to depart within seven days. Airlines are required to provide these status updates 30 minutes – or sooner – after the airline becomes aware of a status change.

Flight status information should, at a minimum, be provided on the airline’s website.

What is a creeping delay?

It is sometimes difficult for an airline to estimate the length of a delay during its early stages. When a flight delay unexpectedly gets longer and longer, it is called a creeping delay. Unexpected developments may cause a longer than expected delay. Weather that was supposed to get better may instead get worse. A mechanical problem may turn out to be more complex than the airline initially thought.

Can I change flights?

If your flight is delayed, you can try to arrange another flight on your airline. It is sometimes easier to make such arrangements by calling the airline, through the airline’s website or mobile app, or through social media. Check, however, if the airline will charge you a fee or a higher fare to change your reservation.

If you find a flight with an available seat on another airline, you can ask the first airline to transfer your ticket to the alternative airline. However, federal regulations do not require airlines to place you on another airline’s flight or to reimburse you if you purchase a ticket on another airline. Changing flights and airlines is more difficult with checked baggage.

Am I entitled to a refund?

In the event of a significant delay, you may be entitled to a refund, including a refund of any optional charges associated with the purchase of your ticket, such as baggage fees and seat upgrades.

What if my flight is cancelled?

Most airlines will book you on their next flight to your destination for free as long as the flight has seats available. If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for unused transportation, even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any baggage fees you have paid and any extras you have purchased, such as a seat assignment.

If the airline offers you a voucher for future travel instead of a refund, you should ask them about any restrictions that may apply, such as blackout and expiry dates, booking requirements at the advance and the limits of the number of seats.

And a hotel room?

Airlines are not required to provide passengers with money or other compensation for costs not related to the canceled flight ticket and costs directly related to the flight ticket when flights are cancelled.

They are also not required to reimburse expenses or lost wages if they cancel a flight and you are forced to miss your cruise, honeymoon, wedding, concert or any other activity, including the work.

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or [email protected] The Associated Press contributed.

Corina C. Butler