UGHHHHH. I don’t think I’ve chatted with anyone this Summer who HASN’T suffered the new ….eternally delayed flight disease! We have all been there at one time or another – flight is delayed or cancelled! 

What options do we have and what is the airline required to do?  The short answer is “it depends”.   I’ve seen them get incredibly creative in denying responsibility for pretty much anything….In general, it depends upon a number of things:

  • Where are you departing (airport)?
  • Is the airline a US carrier or a European carrier?
  • Is the delay due to weather or is it something within the airline’s control such as a mechanical or crew issue?
  • Are you delayed or cancelled due to overbooking?

We’ll take a look at a few scenarios and give you our best read.

     Your flight is on a US airline and is flying within the US or to another country

Unless your flight is overbooked (more about this later) you are at the mercy of the airline.  It does not matter if it is an extended weather delay, the crew has timed out or there is a mechanical problem.  It is the carrier’s decision as to whether you receive food, hotel vouchers, etc.  Generally speaking, your chances of getting something is better if you have some Frequent Flyer status with that airline and the higher your status the better.  Here are a few tips:

  • Remember, the airline personnel you are talking to did not cause the delay or cancellation – Be Polite. But, be firm…ask for more…ALWAYS!
  • Ask for vouchers – if you do not ask, they will probably not be offered.
  • If you have any status, call your carrier’s designated number and begin a dialogue about your options.   You should even do this if you are waiting out a delay on the tarmac.
  • Keep all of your receipts for food, lodging and taxis / ride share, etc.  You can always file a claim with the airline once you return home.

     Your flight is on a European carrier or is leaving Europe

Okay, you DO get some help here…. and, you do not have to be a citizen of an EU country.  The EU looks at things from 2 viewpoints – is it weather related or an airline caused mishap? Crew is late, gate change, etc.

     Weather delays are pretty straight forward.  They must take care of you if a short haul flight (less than 4 hours) is delayed more than 2 hours or a long haul (over 4 hours) is delayed more than 4 hours.  They do not HAVE to reimburse you with money – but, I DO ask. This just happened on a flight from Dallas to Buenos Aires. And, our “home” airline (the one we took to get to Dallas) just reimbursed us for our inconvenience. Again, if you don’t ask … they will not give you anything.  They are required to provide you with accommodations (no, not at a 5-star luxury hotel), transportation to the hotel, food / water and 2 phone calls. More “whining” on this later!

     Airline (not Air Traffic Control) caused problems is where the EU really makes the carriers step up.  You are entitled to the above plus some cash depending on the length of delay and the cash can be substantial.  Just remember that the delay is measured from the time your flight was supposed to land to the time it does land.  A departure delay of 5 hours does not get you compensation if your landing is delayed less than 3 hours!  The amount you are entitled to is computed via a combination of the flight length in kilometers and the length of the delay.  Here are a few examples:

  • Flight is under 1500km and delayed over 3 hours      250 Euro
  • Flight is between 1500 and 3500km and delay is over 3 hours    400 Euro
  • Flight is over 3500km and delay is over 4 hours        600 Euro

There may be a case when the airline says there are weather delays or Air Traffic Control problem arises so they do not have to pay you.  Keep track of other flights that are leaving on time and check the weather at your destination. Look for other flight options.

You are denied boarding due to overbooking on a US airline

Due to some very public and embarrassing incidents, US airlines have gone to great lengths to ensure that you are compensated if you are denied boarding. 

The caveat to this is that you must be checked in and  in the boarding area within the time limit prescribed by the individual airline.  They are not responsible if you need to use the restroom or get stuck at security.  Airlines will first ask for volunteers and offer something in return.  It may be cash, a voucher and an upgrade seat on a later flight.  There are confirmed reports of people receiving cash / vouchers of up to $10,000 per person … please do not count on this!  If you do not volunteer and are denied boarding, the airline is required to give you 200 – 400 % of the value of your ticket depending on the length of your delay and rebook you.  This must be given to you in writing – get the paperwork.




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xoxo, Rosanna
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