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Knowing your rights as a traveler if your flight gets cancelled or delayed

APTOPIX Holiday Travel
Posted at 7:48 AM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 09:11:26-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It's been a tough go for travelers in recent months.

Flight cancellations and delays are soaring for a whole host of reasons: COVID infections, pilot shortages and wild weather from Coast to Coast.

Mike Giardino, Executive Director of the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport said, "The entire industry is kind of being controlled right now by things that are out of out of our control."

On Thursday, February 3, FlightAware reported that airlines canceled nearly 4,000 flights in the United States.

When it comes to flight delays, AAA Tidewater says there aren't federal laws that require airlines to provide passengers with money or compensation. In fact, each airline has their own policies.

American Airlines, for example, said online that if a delay is their fault, let's say it's a mechanical issue, and you don't board before midnight on the scheduled arrival day they'll arrange an overnight stay for you.

JetBlue's website on the other-hand offers compensation starting at $50 if your flight is delayed for more than three hours. If you booked through JetBlue and your flight qualifies for compensation, you will receive an email from JetBlue within seven days of your flight's scheduled departure. This will happen automatically and there is no need to contact JetBlue.

While delays are inconvenient, the Department of Transportation hasn't defined what a "significant delay" is.

"The Department of Transportation handles those refunds on a case by case basis," said Ryan Adcock with AAA Tidewater.

As for cancellations Giardino said, "weather does not impact that as well. You're not going to get a travel voucher, if the weather's in the way."

According to the DOT, if your flight is canceled and you end your trip as a result, you're entitled to a refund. Some airlines may offer travel credits or a voucher instead. Travelers can push for cash in place of a voucher, but that differs from airlines and who you booked your flight with.

Giardino said it also comes down to a matter of risk tolerance and flexibility.

"Maybe you have more risk tolerance, you don't need insurance, you're more willing to give up your seat for a voucher, if the airlines going to offer it to you, and you have some flexibility in your travel," he said.

Adcock said if you don't want to read the company's policy yourself then you may want to think about hiring a travel agent.

"Before your trip even starts [it's a good idea to] work with a travel agent because they are really some of the people that stay most up to date on those guidelines and those policies," said Adcock.

If you're already at the airport, when in doubt, ask someone at the customer service kiosk and try to be patient.