If you’ve already booked a flight, you should do four easy things:
1. Download your airline’s app. This will help you get real-time notifications and communicate directly with customer service, especially if you need to rebook your flight and the phone lines are jammed.
2. Put trackers in your bags. Some of the biggest frustrations for passengers whose flights are canceled or rebooked stem from the airline not knowing where your bag is. It’s helpful if you do.
3. Bookmark the Department of Transportation’s passenger dashboard that shows the binding commitments from the 10 largest airlines on various issues, including cancellations and delays caused by the airline (because of staffing, equipment, etc.) Six of the 10 will rebook you on another airline at no charge. Some will pay for hotels, meals, etc. You can’t count on the airline offering this to you unless you ask.
4. Know that you have legal rights.
First, the most important right: If any airline cancels your flight for any reason, you’re entitled by law to a full refund of your ticket price, taxes, baggage fees, any extra charges and ancillary fees. Airlines and ticket agents must issue refunds promptly — if that’s what you want. Airlines must issue the refund within seven business days if you paid by credit card and within 20 days if you paid by cash or check.
If you learn your flight is canceled or will be significantly delayed or changed and you find a flight on another airline with available seats, you can ask the first airline to transfer your ticket to the second airline at no cost to you. Airlines aren’t required to do this if the disruption wasn’t their fault, but many will. A transfer could save you a significant amount of money compared with buying a new ticket, because tickets often become more expensive closer to the departure date. As mentioned, you also have additional rights if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed for reasons within the airline’s control. Many airlines rebook you free, and pay for hotels, meals, ground transportation, etc.
You also have legal rights if you are bumped from a flight, if your baggage is misplaced or lost or if you’re stuck on the tarmac.
Here’s a look at your other rights:
At the airport
If you’re involuntarily bumped, airlines must provide you with a list of your rights and compensate you according to how long your flight will be delayed.
Less than 1 hour None
1-2 hours (Domestic) 200% of your one-way fare up to $775
1-4 hours (International) 200% of your one-way fare up to $775
Over 2 hours (Domestic) 400% of your one-way fare up to $1,550
Over 4 hours (International) 400% of your one-way fare up to $1,550
Airlines have to provide medical attention and working bathrooms the entire time the plane is on the tarmac. After two hours, you must have food and water. After three hours, you must be in the air or back in the airport—or the airline faces massive fines.
If your flight is delayed more than 30 minutes, airlines must give you regular updates.
If your bag is delayed overnight, most airlines set guidelines that allow their employees to reimburse you for some emergency expenses.
Airlines must refund any checked baggage fees, and reimburse you for the lost items up to $3,800.
Airlines are required to give you information on how to file complaints. Airlines need to acknowledge written complaints within 30 days and respond within 60 days.
If you don’t get satisfaction from an airline, file an official complaint with the FAA.
To file a complaint against an airline, an airport or a ticket agent, go to https://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm
For other information about passenger rights, go to https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer
The Southwest mess
Getting your money back
If your flight was canceled, you’re entitled by law to a refund of your ticket price, taxes, baggage fees, any extra charges and ancillary fees. If you haven’t received that yet, request a flight refund from Southwest https://www.southwest.com/traveldisruption/
In addition, Southwest says: “If you have been impacted by a flight cancellation or significant flight delay between December 24, 2022, and January 2, 2023, you may submit receipts for consideration … We will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel, and alternate transportation.”
To file a claim
To fill out a claim and upload receipts, go to: https://support.southwest.com/email-us/s/?clk=TRAVEL-DISRUPTION-LP