How to deal with flight delays


Remember when air travel was fun? We don't either. Flight delays and cancellations seem to be inevitable. Here are some secrets to help you get more from your airline when you're delayed, from Mark Orwoll of Travel and Leisure magazine.

How to deal with flight delays If your flight is delayed or cancelled, immediately call the airline’ s 800 reservations number to rebook yourself. Do not wait in line with the other delayed passengers at the gate: You’ll get better service and you’ll be more likely to get a seat on the next flight.
  • If your flight is delayed due to weather, war, labor strikes, or acts of God, the airline is required only to refund your ticket price if it can’t get you to your destination.
  • If the delay or cancellation is due to mechanical problems, staffing shortages or other situations over which the airline is expected to have some control, this is called a “schedule irregularity.” And you may be entitled to some form of compensation.
  • Airlines are required by federal regulators to have a policy dealing with what they will do for passengers who are affected by a “schedule irregularity.” This used to be referred to as “Rule 240,” a term that is still used by savvy travelers and some airline personnel. Use it for your own benefit when delayed.
  • Ask at the gate to be compensated under “Rule 240.” Or ask what the airline’s policy on schedule irregularities offers in your situation.
  • Don’t wait to be offered a voucher. Ask for it at the gate or at Customer Service. You may get a coupon for a free meal, or even a hotel room if you’re delayed overnight.

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. 


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  • Mark Orwoll

    Mark Orwoll Senior Consulting Editor, Travel + Leisure Mark Orwoll has appeared numerous times as a travel authority on network and cable television and is the author of Teach Yourself e-Travel Today (Macmillan). more about this expert »

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