I fly a lot. As in every other week. Ironically as it sounds, my husband and I were kind of fond of commercial airline flights during the pandemic days. Not for the sickness and the masks but because the airports were empty, flights were on time. Flights were cheap. Our flights were seldom canceled or delayed.
At the same time, we are super glad to see the uptick in travel in 2022. It’s hard to find a parking spot with all the families, youth, grandparents and business people at the airport again. What makes us happy though, is that people are unmasked and we can see the smiles on their faces, which is priceless, given what we all have gone through recently.
Many airlines across the US and Europe point to staffing shortages in key areas like pilots, ground crew and air traffic control centers as underlying problems attributing to the current trend of canceled flights. Even if these airlines are able to hire, they don’t have enough time to train staff to keep up with the increase in travel demand. Although international flight demand is still about 14% below what it was pre-pandemic in 2019, the demand for domestic flights surpasses what it was in 2019.
Every Country Has Different Flight Cancelation Compensation Rules
Different countries have different rules. If you are in the UK, for example, and your flight is more than three hours delayed, at the fault of the airline, you can be compensated up to $600 per person. Amsterdam went so far as to ask American Airlines to stop selling tickets from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport through most of July while it catches up on a chaotic summer travel season.
In the United States airline passengers are only guaranteed a full refund if they’ve purchased a refundable ticket or the flight is canceled or significantly delayed. Terms vary by airline. However, most airlines are willing to compensate and in some cases will pay cash to passengers who volunteer to take a later flight. Other reasons why passengers are entitled to a refund include being downgraded due to an equipment change from upper-class seating to economy, and services purchased (like wifi) that are no longer available.
Where to file a general complaint.
American Airlines Flight Cancelation Policy
Typically American Airlines will apply a non-refundable ticket toward another ticket used in the same calendar year. Non-refundable tickets will get refunded if the flight is completely canceled or is more than four hours delayed. For other reasons AA will refund you or to request a refund see https://www.aa.com/i18n/customer-service/faqs/customer-service-faqs.jsp
United Airlines Flight Delay & Cancelation Policy
United Airlines asks passengers to rebook via the app when there is a major flight delay or cancelation. If the passenger chooses not to fly based on this, they must submit a formal refund request at https://www.united.com/en/us/refunds. According to their website, a close family death, illness and jury duty are reasonable events for which to receive a refund.
When it comes to Delta, they state that the flexibility for passengers has changed since 2020. However, only refundable purchased tickets are eligible with a change fee depending on when the change is made. In the case that Delta cancels a flight or a flight is significantly delayed the ticket can be applied to an eTicket or they will rebook you on another flight. It is possible to request a full refund online, by phone or by mail. https://www.delta.com/us/en/change-cancel/cancel-flight
Rebooking on Southwest Airlines
A lot of people book Southwest for their generous cancelation options on the, “I want to get away’ fair. Southwest allows passengers with these tickets to cancel just 10 minutes before a flight departs. If Southwest cancels your flight, however, and you have a non-refundable ticket, you are not eligible for a cash refund. Southwest will apply a travel credit to your loyalty account instead.
So now that you have an overview of various American airlines’ flight cancellation and delay policies, what do you do when you are at the airport and they cancel your flight?
The Number One Thing You Don’t Want to Do is Stand In Line
You know that line. The one inside security at the help desk. This is where the amateurs go as you can tell by their loud disgruntled phone calls and the occasional outburst at the most likely underpaid and overworked airline agent. As soon as you know that your flight is significantly delayed or canceled, do the following:
Get on the Phone
Call your airline directly for new flight bookings.
Utilize your App or a Kiosk
In the era of touch-free technology, there are a lot of options. Most airlines would rather give you some control rather than flood their employees with change requests.
Go to the Airport Lounge
If your airline has a private lounge, you can pay for a day pass. You’ll get access to comfortable seating, food, beverages, private bathrooms and possibly a shower. Let’s face it, if you’re being delayed or even overnight you’re going to spend almost the same amount on airport food and drinks. Bonus: Here the staff will search and rebook your ticket for you. Just hand them your current pass and information about where you are going and when.
Sign Up to Fly Standby
Show up early and let the gate agent know you are there.
Check Local Hotels
A few airlines like American, Alaska and Delta will put you up in a hotel between 10 PM-Midnight until 6 AM if they can’t rebook you. There is no guarantee though as it depends on partnerships with local hotels and sometimes even how many miles you are away from home. Check your airline’s policy before you fly.
If you need to book a hotel or rental car out of pocket, do so as soon as you realize you need the accommodations. Local hotels and car rentals book very fast especially if there is bad weather that is causing several delays.
Fortunately, I am married to a man who in all honesty, should have been an airline pilot, hence I get plenty of tips from my own personal aviation geek.