Cancelled Flight? Know Your Rights!


While the blizzard of 2016 has a plethora of New Jerseyans looking forward to queuing up Netflix and eating snacks all weekend, there are some people who aren’t happy about the storm, not even one little bit.

It’s true that the bitter cold months of January and February are typically the most popular time of year to jet out of here and into a more tropical locale. After dealing with cracking skin and endless static cling, a week-long beach-side getaway sounds downright blissful. Not to mention, off-season rates for everything vacation-related can mean big savings for anyone traveling on a budget.

The risk of winter wanderlust, for those of us living in a seasonal climate region, is naturally that a gigantic snowstorm will roll into town just as you’re about to roll out. This can result in delayed flights, which may put a few kinks into your itinerary, OR  (cue horror music) cancelled flights.

Unfortunately, most people discover much too late that they just don’t have many rights when it comes to their flight being cancelled. In the United States, airlines are by law only required to provide passengers with food and water if they’re stranded on the runway for more than two hours. If your flight gets cancelled, you may get a voucher for a slightly discounted hotel room. You might also be pointed in the direction of the airport benches for the night.

What rights do you have as a consumer with a cancelled flight?

We all know that a discounted hotel room near the airport isn’t anyone’s idea of making up for lost snorkeling time and mai tais. However, the only thing airlines are required to do is to make sure you reach your destination at some point. It may not be until the next day; it may be several days later.

As you can imagine, this can royally mess up vacation plans, as hotels and resorts are not likely to hold room reservations when you don’t show up. This can very quickly derail your entire vacation.

In order to be your own best advocate, start calling your airline on your cell phone while you simultaneously stand in the ticketing line. Weather conditions may cause other travelers to ditch their travel plans, opening up plane seats that you can use! If your airline simply doesn’t have any open seats on any flights within a reasonable time frame, ask them to find you a seat on a different airline.

It’s up to each airline individually to determine how much help they want to be to their delayed travelers, however, persistence often pays off. If you absolutely can’t get a flight out in time, contact the hotel or resort where you’ll be vacationing. Alert them to your situation and ask if they can push your entire vacation back a few days to accommodate your travel troubles. You may be pleasantly surprised by how flexible some establishments will be – as long as they have openings.

You may have to make do with a few shifts in your overall vacation plan, but by being proactive you can almost always salvage most of your much-needed getaway. Preparedness and quick thinking will give you the best chances of reaching your destination even when weather threatens to ruin everything.


Image credit: Curimedia

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