What Rights Do Passengers Have When a Flight is Cancelled?

Dec 30, 2022 - Articles




With the news of a major airline cancelling thousands of flights over Christmas week, many have wondered what rights do passengers have when a flight is cancelled or delayed. The short answer is that it depends. However, it may surprise you to know that there are no federal laws requiring airlines to provide meals, accommodations or financial compensation when vacation plans are impacted or cancelled due to delayed or cancelled flights.

If you plan a trip and are intending to fly to your destination, it is good to be reminded that airlines are not required to guarantee their schedules. Federal law only requires airlines to compensate passengers when they are “bumped” from a flight due to the airline overselling seats on the plane. While “overbooking” is not illegal, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that airlines first ask passengers to voluntarily give up their seat in exchange for compensation. DOT does not mandate the form or amount of compensation that is to be provided. Accordingly, compensation varies depending on the airline and whether volunteers are eager to give up their seats.

If someone must be “bumped” involuntarily, DOT requires that such passengers be given a written statement describing their rights as well as “denied boarding compensation” in the form of a check or cash, if the airline is unable to arrange substitute transportation within one hour or their scheduled arrival time. If the airline arranges substitute transportation between one and two hours of their original arrival time, the airline must pay at a minimum an amount equal to 200% of the passenger’s one way fare or $775.00 whichever is lower. If the substitute transportation is schedule to get to the destination more than two hours later, or if the airline is unable to make substitute travel arrangements, the minimum compensation doubles to 400% of the passenger’s one way fare or $1,550.00, whichever is lower.

Unfortunately, for most travelers who were stranded this holiday week, there are no federal mandates for compensation because the flight was simply cancelled.

If you are intending to fly and have not yet booked your flight, you may want to review how your airline handles cancellations. Each airline has different commitments to their passengers and you may want to compare what is promised before booking your flight. A Federal Government airline customer service dashboard, setting forth various airline’s commitments can be found here.

Additionally, if you are concerned about the financial cost of missing out on arriving at a pre-paid vacation destination or a cruise, you may want to consider travel insurance for flight cancellations. A recent article in Forbes magazine detailing the types of coverage and the cost can be found here.

At Drake, Hileman & Davis, our personal injury attorneys have been concerned for the safety of those in our community for more than 30 years. We have been helping the injured find answers, whenever accidents happen. We have a proven track record of results and satisfied clients. We’re ready to answer your questions and provide you with the legal help you need. Contact us on-line or call us at 1-888-777-7098 to schedule your free consultation in the convenience of your home or at one of our five offices located throughout the region.


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"Unfortunately, I had a a slip and fall incident and it left me in a situation where I struggled to support my family and I really had no idea what my rights were. Thankfully, someone recommended DHD, specifically Jeremy Puglia, and it was the best decision I could have made. I was able to focus on getting better while he made certain no one took advantage of me or the situation. He listened to what I felt was fair and why, discussed it all with me and fought for me. I would NOT want to be up against him in a court room. Some people were made to defend others and he is one of them for sure!"
Posted By: Heather Fischer

Drake, Hileman & Davis

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