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Airline cancel your flight? Can you get money back?

Southwest Airlines sale offers round trips for under $100
Posted at 9:32 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 00:56:54-04

You've likely seen the video of passengers stranded at airports nationwide.

Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the weekend and that continues.

They're giving reasons like weather, air traffic control, and other issues.

But when it comes to your passenger rights, the reason the airline canceled a flight doesn't matter if you want a refund.

"You are entitled to a cash refund regardless of the reason," says Willis Orlando with Scott's Cheap Flights.

But, that's about the only ironclad protection passengers have right now.

When it comes to delays, the Department of Transportation (DOT) isn't as clear.

Their rule states: "a passenger is entitled to a refund if the airline made a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight and the passenger chooses not to travel. DOT has not specifically defined what constitutes a "significant delay."

That significant definition depends on the airline.

The DOT states they will take complaints on a "case-by-case" basis. And in these cases, the reason for the delay may be considered.

So, if the airline claims it's a weather-related reason, something beyond their control, it could work against passengers getting refunds.

Most people just want to get home and will likely take the next offered flight. In those cases, airlines do not have to pay inconvenience fees.

They do not have to reimburse you for food, hotels, or anything needed because of their action.

If you must stay overnight because of the airline cancels or delays, ask a hotel about a "distressed passenger rate."

It's supposed to take 20%-30% off the higher last-minute rate.

I tried contacted three hotels in the Sky Harbor area and was told they don't offer that rate.

But I hear it's a real thing and worth a try.

Also, keep receipts and try to get the reimbursement later.

And file a complaint with the DOT if you think your situation merits that.

Because these delays are happening more frequently, consider earlier flights so you have more later options as a backup.

In a statement to ABC15, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said: "When a flight is canceled by Southwest and the customer chooses not to travel, the customer can retain their travel funds from the ticket or request a refund of the ticket. Otherwise, we will rebook the customer on the next available flight(s) to their destination."

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