What if Republic, JetBlue or Southwest cancels my flight?

First, you probably want to find another flight, but you might have options and may be able to get more. Get the "Plane Truth" on what to know and watch out for.

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The biggest problem with airline travel these days is all of the cancellations and delays. Aside from hard-hit 2020, we had more cancellations in 2022 than in any year since 2001, which was disrupted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Among the 17 largest airlines, Republic Airways in 2022 was the worst, with nearly 5% of flights canceled, or 14,862 canceled flights. Second-worst was JetBlue, followed by Endeavor and Allegiant. 

Among the big four airlines, Southwest had the highest percentage of cancellations.

So what should you do if your flight is canceled?

  1. If you don’t already have it, get the airline’s app on your phone.
  2. Most likely, you don’t necessarily want a refund. You want to get where you were going as quickly as possible. You should simultaneously:
  • See when the airline says it can get you on another flight, and see whether that works for you, and
  • See whether there’s another airline at the same airport that has seats available on its next flight to your destination.
  1. If the airline can get you on the next flight and that works for you, that’s great. Depending on the airline, you still are eligible for some consideration for meal vouchers, hotels, ground transportation, etc., per the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT’s) commitment from the top 10 airlines. Ask for what you’re entitled to. (Republic isn’t among the top 10 that has made commitments, but you should still ask.) See the list below on the promises the airlines have made to the and that they must abide by.
  2. If you can get a seat on another airline, ask the airline that canceled to transfer your ticket at no cost to you. Airlines don’t have to do this, but many will, if you ask.
  3. If the airline can’t/won’t rebook you, and you can’t get a seat quickly on another airline, you may have to regroup. This could involve you buying a new ticket on another airline and using the money from the refund to cover all or most of the cost. If this happens, and the airline canceled for a reason within its control but won’t reimburse you for the difference in ticket prices, file a complaint with the DOT.
  4. Be nice. No matter what happens, the person you’re dealing with probably didn’t cause your problem, but they might be able to help you fix it. Plus, it’s always a good idea to be nice.

Your rights when your flight is canceled or delayed

While some flights are delayed because of severe weather, security delays or heavy traffic, the single biggest reason for delays is an issue within the airline’s control, according to the DOT. “Examples include: maintenance or crew problems, cabin cleaning, baggage loading and fueling,” DOT says. In 2022, issues within the air carrier’s control was the No. 1 reason for delays every month except in July.

Airline practices when a cancellation or delay within the airlines’ control delays a passenger by three hours or more:

  • All of the top 10 carriers will rebook a passenger on their own airline and provide money or a voucher for meals. 
  • With a controllable cancellation, six will rebook a passenger on a partner airline or another airline with which it has an agreement, at no additional cost to the customer: Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and United.
    Four will not rebook with another airline: Allegiant, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit.
  • With a controllable delay, five will rebook a passenger on a partner airline or another airline with which it has an agreement, at no additional cost to the customer: Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue and United.
    Five will not rebook with another airline: Allegiant, Frontier, Hawaiian, Southwest and Spirit.
  • All except Frontier will pay for a hotel and ground transportation to and from a hotel when a cancellation or delay within the airline’s control strands a customer overnight. 
  • In cases of cancellation or a delay of three hours or more, Frontier will only rebook with its own airline and provide cash or a voucher for a meal.
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The volume of consumer complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation about cancellations and delays has skyrocketed.

PIRG: Giving passengers the Plane Truth and working for Flyers’ Rights

PIRG for years has been standing up for passengers’ rights by advocating for stronger consumer protections, exposing practices that harm consumers, holding regulators accountable for enforcement and offering travelers tips and information about their rights.


Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.

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