Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed recent news reports that the airlines have been on a streakNot a flying streak, unfortunately, but a delaying and canceling flights around the country streak. This can be blamed directly on the Omicron variant. The highly transmissible variant has sidelined many flight crews, making delays and even cancellations much more common. Here’s what you need to know.
What can I do if my flight is delayed?
You might not know this, but you are entitled to your money back if there’s a “significant delay” with your flight and you choose not to travel after all. What constitutes a significant delay? Well, the TSA generally allows the airlines to make that distinction, but two hours is a good general rule.
However, most people have trips they’re committed to which means you may find yourself asking what you’re entitled to in terms of compensation.
An airline will always try to put you on the next available flight, but with Omicron being an indiscriminate offender, there sometimes aren’t other flights available right now. Let’s assume a best case scenario for you. Say, your flight gets delayed and the airline offers to put you on their first morning flight the next day.
What kinds of compensation can you get from the airlines?
If you’re already in your home city, you’ll probably just go home and sleep in your own bed. On the other hand, if you’re returning home from a trip, you might be frustrated to know you now have to find a hotel to stay in for the night. In some cases, the airlines will offer travelers hotel vouchers, usually at an airport hotel.
Other airlines, like JetBlue, will offer monetary compensation ranging from $50 to $200. The exact amount depends on the length of the delay, but you’ll need to be delayed at least 3 hours to get any cash.
Can you get your money back if your flight is canceled?
This is the scenario a lot of people are experiencing right now. If your flight gets canceled BY THE AIRLINE you are entitled to your money back, 100%. If your flight gets canceled while you’re on a layover, the portions of the trip not taken will be pro-rated. But a refund is your right, under federal law.
Should you take the voucher or credit for future travel?
The airlines would prefer you not to cash out, so they’ll often offer a credit for future travel in the form of a voucher. There’s nothing at all wrong with this option – but if you’re not sure if you’ll travel within the calendar year, it’s better to take a straight refund. Most airline vouchers expire after one year, and you don’t want to be out that money.
Should I tweet about my frustration?
In a word, no. Now, we are all about leveraging social media when you’re in a situation where an injustice has been done. A tactfully worded tweet with a little bad PR has been proven to be an excellent squeaky wheel in recent years.
But, we are in the middle of a pandemic and the airlines are trying to accommodate much larger groups of people all while serving the general public. Our best advice is to be polite, do your own research, and be polite (we said what we said).
The gate agent who is attempting to rebook 70 people might not be putting you on the most convenient next flight, so if you can take a step back, look into your options and then present the gate agent with your next best scenario in a polite and non-aggressive way, you might get your preference.
Know Your Codeshare
We recommend checking with airlines that code share (every major commercial airline in the U.S. has a few commercial partners they work with to sell flights). You’ve more than likely been on a codeshare flight at some point, even if you’re just now learning what it is. When you book with one airline, show up at the airport, and get on a plane operated by another – you’ve guessed it. That’s a codeshare.
So, back to your flight cancellation scenario. If your airline has a codeshare partner going to your destination, don’t be afraid to mention it to your gate agent. It may not help in the long run, but it can’t hurt to show the gate agent (again, POLITELY), that you know what you’re talking about and you know some of the potential options. Then, keep your fingers crossed.
One Final Piece of Bad News, Good News
The very good news is that the Omicron variant isn’t keeping people from planning travel. Though it’s very transmissible (that’s the bad news), most people who catch it can expect a mild bout (gotta love those vaccines), and it’s going to be gone in the space of a few weeks.
Expect the airlines to continue to ramp back up their staffing levels as demand for travel continues to rebound in 2022.