Hi I'm Mark Orwoll from Travel + Leisure magazine for howdini. We've all heard the stories about extensive flight delays and cancellations due to severe weather. The question is, how can a passenger deal with those situations?
Well, the first thing you don't want to do is rush to the gate and try and rebook your flight there. You're going to have a whole lot of angry passengers along side of you. Instead, pick up the telephone and call the airline's 800 reservation number. Put yourself ahead of a virtual ticket line and book your next flight out that way.
Now what does an airline owe you in those cases? Well first remember that there are two types of delays. The first is one in which the airline has no control. That would be severe weather, war, labor strikes, acts of God. The only thing they owe you in those cases, at most, would be a refund on your ticket.
The other kind of delay or cancellation is called a scheduled irregularity. What that means is that the airline is expected to have some sort of control. That would be mechanical problems, for example, or staffing issues. The department of transportation doesn't require that airlines compensate passengers for delays due to scheduled irregularities, but it does require that they have a policy. That policy is referred to a Rule 240. It's an old term that airlines still use and so do frequent fliers. In fact, a frequent flier may go up to the gate agent and say, "240 me." That means that whatever policy the airline has in place, they have to give to that passenger. For example, that might mean getting that passenger out even if it means putting them on a competing airline. If the Rule 240 requires that they put you up over night at a hotel because it's an overnight delay, you'll get a voucher for a hotel.
But, here's the deal: they're not just going to offer you this. They're not going to make an announcement over the loud speaker system. You have to go up and ask. And if you're delayed overnight, you sure want that hotel voucher. Beats sleeping overnight in the waiting lounge.