Delayed or cancelled flight? Learn what to do

Delayed flights and cancelled flights are a part of traveling. Learn the rules, regulations and how to recoup your losses.

US airlines don’t guarantee schedules. If the passenger is late, the airline response is often draconian. However, should people ever have delayed flights because of the airline (in the USA), passengers are provided virtually no compensation. The airline attitude amounts to, “Tough.”

Passengers should realize this when planning a trip. There are many things that can — and often do — make it impossible for flights to arrive on time. Some of these problems, like bad weather, air traffic delays, and mechanical issues, are hard to predict and often beyond the airlines’ control.

When there are delayed flights, try to find out how late it will be, but keep in mind that it is sometimes difficult for airlines to estimate the total duration of a delay during its early stages. In so-called “creeping delays,” developments occur which were not anticipated when the carrier made its initial estimate of the length of the delay.

Weather that had been forecast to improve can instead deteriorate, or a mechanical problem can turn out to be more complex than initially evaluated. If the problem is with local weather or air traffic control, all flights will probably be late and there’s not much you or the airline can do to speed up a departure.

If a flight is experiencing a lengthy delay, passengers might be better off trying to arrange another flight, as long as they don’t have to pay a cancellation penalty or higher fare for changing reservations. (It is sometimes easier to make such arrangements by phone than at a ticket counter.) If passengers find a flight on another airline, ask the first airline if it will endorse the ticket to the new carrier; this could save a fare collection. Remember, however, that there is no rule requiring airlines to do this.