According to an article in USA Today, Europe’s passenger compensation policy for flight cancellations is about to be revised. The move follows a court ruling earlier this year that forced airlines to provide financial compensation for a week of flight cancellations ensuing from a volcano eruption in Iceland back in 2010.
It seems that European airlines are hoping for new policies that are more in alignment with the United States, which does not impose penalties for cancellations blamed on weather or natural disasters. However, while there is little recourse for passengers who experience a flight cancellation due to inclement weather, the reality is that most flights are canceled due to aircraft either arriving late, or air carrier delay. More importantly, there are consumer rights and compensation attached to both of these.
Similarly flights that are legally canceled because there aren’t enough passengers booked for the airline to turn a profit (otherwise known as ‘fuel conservation’) also entitle travelers to some form of compensation.
What does all this mean? Well, if you suspect any of these reasons to be the cause of your cancellation, you should seek out the airline’s Contract of Carriage. For example, United Airlines states its delay and flight cancellation policies in ‘Rule 24’, on Delta Air Lines it is ‘Rule 240’, and on JetBlue Airways, their compensation is outlined in their Customer Bill of Rights.
#1: Speak up
On Delta Air Lines, if the delay will cause you to miss a connection, they will refund the unused portion of your ticket. But you have to request this specifically. If not, then Delta isn’t obliged to issue a refund. Instead it will transport you to your destination on the next available flight.
#2: Be observant
Passengers are often told by gate agents that the flight has been canceled due to inclement weather, which offers no recourse. However, if other carriers are still flying to the same destination it is possible that the flight was canceled due to being under booked (fuel conservation). If you suspect this, work your way up the chain of command and politely demand appropriate compensation.
#3: Provide appropriate contact information
Airlines will often reach out to booked passengers well in advance if a flight is canceled – sometimes even before you are at the airport. This can save a premature trip to the airport.
#4: Look at other options
If your original carrier’s flights are already booked up by other passengers, request a flight on a competing carrier. It is a good idea to pull up a list of competing carriers’ schedules and flight numbers (if you can) while waiting in line.
#5: Ask questions
If you are able to get on another flight, make sure you know exactly where your luggage is and how it will get to you, as well as whether there will be an additional cost. Flight cancellations often cause baggage mix-ups. Also be sure to let ticket agents know about any connecting flights before rebooking!
#6: Stay calm
Being angry, rude or overly demanding with ticketing agents will likely only decrease your chances of receiving satisfactory compensation from the airline. Request “inconvenience compensation,” but keep in mind the amount will depend on the reason the flight was canceled as well as the original ticket price.