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What Are You Owed If Your Flight Gets Canceled? It Depends on the Airline

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, only around 1.5-2% of flights get canceled. While that’s not a significant amount, it’s pretty inconvenient for the thousands  of passengers who had their travel plans disrupted due to weather, mechanical issues or other circumstances.

Frequent travelers know the drill: It varies by airline and outlined in each respective contract of carriage. Here’s an overview your options in case of a canceled flight with the main domestic carriers:


American Airlines

If your flight is canceled, American Airlines will rebook you on the next available flight. Additionally, if the cancellation was caused by “events within our control” or a diversion and boarding to your final destination doesn’t occur before 11:59 PM, the airline will arrange for hotel accommodations. Unfortunately weather delays do not qualify for accommodations. You can, however, request a refund in lieu of rebooking in case of a cancellation.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines will rebook passengers whose flights have been delayed or canceled. Hotel accommodations and roundtrip ground transportation will be provided to passengers who are 100 miles or more away from home. This policy does not extend to cancellations caused by weather or anything else outside of the airline’s control/

Delta Airlines

It’s Delta’s policy to try and rebook passengers on the next available flight in case of cancellations. If you have the Delta mobile app, you can easily check the status of your flight, rebook and get your new itinerary. You can also utilize the Delta self service machines to print out new boarding passes as well as meal or hotel vouchers, if you qualify for them. Hotel and meal vouchers are provided to passengers who are away from home and required to stay overnight due to a delayed flight.


According to JetBlue’s Customer Bill of Rights, travelers who’s flights are canceled have the option to receive a full refund or get rebooked on the next available JetBlue flight. If a flight is canceled due to a “controllable irregularity” and another flight isn’t available within an hour, the following compensation will be issued:

If JetBlue cancels a flight due to a Controllable Irregularity and alternate transportation with a scheduled departure within one hour is unavailable, Customers are entitled to compensation good for future travel on JetBlue:

  • Within 4 hours of flight: $50 credit towards a future JetBlue booking
  • After scheduled departure: $100 credit towards a future JetBlue booking

United Airlines

United’s policy is to automatically rebook passengers on the next available flight in case of cancellations. These rebooking will be confirmed via email or text message. Passengers have the option to select a different flight departing within 24 hours if they’re not happy with the new arrangements. If there are no flights available for several hours or days, passengers can always request to stand by for sold-out flights. Travelers can also opt to fly out of a different airport or request a refund.

Overnight accommodations may be offered when flights are canceled due to mechanical issues or others beyond the airline’s control. If the gate agents run out of meal, transportation, and hotel vouchers they might be able to provide an authorization letter so you can book your own accommodations and get reimbursed afterwards. Again, flight cancellations due to weather do not qualify for these benefits though it never hurts to ask.


Overall, you can expect to be accommodated on another flight and offered some kind of reimbursement depending on the circumstance. That being said, it never hurts to ask for compensation, hotel or meal vouchers regardless of what the airline’s policy is. Being polite always goes a long way, especially when agents have angry passengers to deal with. If the line at the ticketing desk is way too long, consider going to the airline club lounge (assuming you have access), call the airline directly, or reach out to them via Twitter to get re-accommodated.


What has your experience been with getting re-accommodated after a cancelled flight? Please share in the comment section.

Image Source: Getty

Comments are Closed.
chrisboote August 20, 2018

It's remarkable how US companies continue to get away with such appalling lack-of-service In the Eu they are required to provide food, accommodation, and compensation of a minimum value of EU250

wanderer35 August 16, 2018

For Delta you write: "Hotel and meal vouchers are provided to passengers who are away from home and required to stay overnight due to a delayed flight." Well, I was over 1000 miles from home, had tickets for the last flight out of JAX on Feb.28, 2017. Flight canceled. For hotel accommodations I was given the name of three nearby ones with which Delta had contract for reduced rates. Nothing for meals.

jrpallante August 16, 2018

Most importantly, never underestimate the value of a positive attitude. My flight was recently cancelled due to weather. As I waited in the short line to rebook, I heard everybody in front of me bitching at the agent, as if she had caused the thunderstorms herself! When it was my turn, I approached with a smile and a kind word. The agent not only upgraded me to First class for the next morning, but she gave me a hotel and meal voucher, which the airline was certainly not obligated to do. Gate agents often have a lot more flexibility than you might think, and a positive attitude is always a good thing.

Zagorsk51 August 16, 2018

"Main domestic carriers" does not include WN? I think not.

MitchR August 16, 2018

Put yourself in their shoes. The gate agent or CSR didn't cause the delay and it's typically not their fault. Grow some thick skin and don't let them push your buttons either. Use your head as well regarding the reasonableness of alternative arrangements. I once had a flight from Gatwick to DFW cancel. The Gate Agent offered us a connecting flight out of Heathrow through O'Hare. I looked at the flight and it was leaving in 90 minutes. I asked the Gate Agent if she really thought it was possible that all 100 of us were going to travel across London at rush hour, get through security, and get onto that flight and she whispered "no." I got a seat on the direct flight the next morning and everyone else had to connect through O'Hare the next day as back then, American didn't fly from Heathrow to DFW.