The holiday travel season is in full swing. Ideally, that means a packed-but-otherwise-uneventful flight to your destination. Of course, that's not always the case. Delays and cancellations are inevitable, especially during such a busy time of the year.
So, what is your airline responsible for if your flight is knocked off schedule? Scroll down for answers to a few common questions on that subject:
What is the airline's responsibility to a passenger for a delayed or canceled flight?
The airline only has to put the passenger on the next flight that has open seats. That's really the airline's only obligation, outside of a possible refund (see the next question). During holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, of course, the "next available" flight could be days away, depending on the scope of the disruption.
Does the airline owe you a refund?
If your flight is canceled and you decide not to try and find a seat on another flight, you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your itinerary. If you continue with your travel, you are not entitled to a refund - regardless of a delay or cancellation. The airline also is not obligated to provide you with compensation for food or lodging because of a delay or cancellation.
If a delay is the airline's fault - a mechanical delay, for example -- your carrier may offer you some sort of compensation, but it is not legally bound to do so.
If the cancellation is weather-related, you are unlikely to receive any compensation. And "weather" can end up being broader than what you see in your local area.
Is my flight problem really because of weather?
It may be sunny where you are. But your plane - or the crew scheduled to be on it - could get stranded in a stormy airport hundreds of miles away. Or your aircraft or crew could have been delayed by poor weather in between other airports. That's especially common during summer, when long lines of thunderstorms can block flight paths over large parts of the country. So, in those cases, the "weather" somewhere else really can lead to a delay or cancellation at your airport.