What America’s 10 Largest Airlines Offer if Your Flight Is Canceled or Delayed

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A new, interactive dashboard from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) now provides information on what several major airlines are offering as compensation if your flight gets delayed or canceled.

The dashboard features two charts. One shows the commitments these airlines are making to customers for controllable flight cancellations; the other shows their commitments for controllable delays. According to the USDOT, issues under the airlines’ control include “maintenance or crew problems; cabin cleaning; baggage loading; and fueling.”

The 10 U.S. airlines included on the dashboard are:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines

Both charts detail the airlines’ commitments to customers in five areas:

  • Rebooking tickets for free within the airline’s own network
  • Rebooking tickets for free on another airline
  • Providing meals or cash vouchers
  • Providing complimentary hotel accommodations
  • Providing complimentary ground transportation to and from hotels for passengers affected by an overnight cancellation

There’s a printable version of the dashboard, and you’ll also find these new customer service plans on the individual airlines’ websites.

Here’s where it gets confusing: The Federal government has never formally declared how long a “delay” is, so what one airline offers passengers for a two-hour delay may be available to passengers on a different airline only after four hours. And digging through each airline’s customer service plans doesn’t always yield an answer.

Bottom Line Questions

What am I entitled to if my flight is delayed?

Short answer: Nothing.

From the USDOT: “There are no federal laws to provide passengers with money or other compensation when their flights are delayed. 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.”

What happens if my flight is canceled?

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No matter the cause, you are entitled to a refund if your flight gets canceled — even if your ticket is non-refundable.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said before the dashboard’s debut, “If you don’t get one, then you can come to our department and we will circle back and enforce it and make sure you do.”

Final Thoughts

The USDOT’s actions in this area come after months of pressure from Capitol Hill. According to Buttigieg, “The Department will continue to support passengers and to hold airlines responsible for adhering to their customer obligations.”

The USDOT has a couple of other things in the works. The first is to categorically define “significant delay” as three or more hours for domestic flights and six for international flights. The second is a proposal to require airlines to issue non-expiring credit to passengers who cannot travel due to illness or choose not to travel in order to obey public health guidelines.

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