Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Mon September 05 2016

What Should Airlines Do When Your Flight Is Canceled?

Airlines & Airports | Janeen Christoff | September 05, 2016

What Should Airlines Do When Your Flight Is Canceled?

 Photo courtesy of Thinkstock 

If your flight is canceled, you may think that the airline has an obligation to find you a new flight — on any airline — to get you to your destination on time. But you would be mistaken. Airlines generally dole out refunds rather than rebooking passengers on other airlines’ flights when their flights are canceled and some passengers, especially after recent computer glitches have grounded planes, are asking why. 

Travel expert Christopher Elliott posed a similar question in an article for Huffington Post. Elliott tells the story of Rosemarie Dagostino, who had a flight from Chicago to San Francisco canceled. The airline called and offered her a refund before she even got on the flight, but Dagostino wanted a new flight rather then her money back. 

“Frontier was only required to either refund the ticket or send the Dagostinos on its next flight with available seats,” Elliott wrote. 

However, this practice has come under fire recently, as Elliott pointed out:

“Airline reciprocity, or the idea that carriers should accept each other’s tickets, is a hot-button issue in Washington now. It became a regulatory cause celebre this summer after the mass cancellations caused by the IT meltdowns at Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which left thousands of air travelers stranded. Consumer advocates support reciprocity; airlines are opposed to it,” he said. 

Consumer advocates say airlines should be responsible — especially because this new practice wasn’t always the norm. Airlines used to rebook passengers. 

“To force passengers to reschedule on the airline’s time frame, due to an airline error, is completely unreasonable,” Paul Hudson, president of told Elliott. “In the instance of a computer outage, the airline should offer a full refund or re-book flights at no additional cost.”

However, airlines do refund passengers frequently for their mistakes and, in the case of the recent IT outages, they also rebooked passengers without charging them, leading some to say that more regulation is unnecessary. 

READ MORE: This Technology May Just End The Horror That Is Lost Luggage  

So, what should it be? Elliott made this point:

“Perhaps the most irritating part of this problem is a glaring double standard: An airline can change its own flight schedule and, at worst, it must refund the ticket. If air travelers change an itinerary, they have to pay change fees and fare differentials. They could lose the entire value of their tickets,” he wrote.

Do you think the airlines policy on flight cancellation is fair? Read on to find out what to do about it. 


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