Southwest Airlines cancellations: What are airline passengers entitled to?

(NCS) — Your flight is canceled. You have to remain over in a lodge and pay for dinner or scramble to discover a rental automobile. What are you entitled to?

It’s a query many annoyed Southwest Airlines prospects are asking within the face of thousands of canceled flights over the weekend and into Monday.

Beyond a refund for a flight that is canceled, US airways aren’t obligated to compensate passengers.

“There are no real rules that will allow passengers to get any kind of compensation or even overnight accommodations if they’re really late,” says Charlie Leocha, president and co-founder of Travelers United, a nonprofit group that advocates for shoppers.

Travelers United has been attempting to get the US Department of Transportation and Congress to undertake air traveler protections just like those in Europe, which embody lodge lodging and different compensation for important delays and disruptions.
Department of Transportation guidelines are clear: “Airlines are not required to provide passengers with money or other compensation for costs that fall outside of the cancelled airline ticket and fees tied directly to the airline ticket,” the DOT website says.

But airways have their very own insurance policies, the DOT notes. It advises passengers to ask airline employees whether or not they may pay for a lodge room or meals.

Southwest Airlines didn’t instantly reply to NCS Travel’s questions on lodge or meal compensation, however the airline has mentioned it’s attempting to get passengers rebooked.

“We’re working diligently to accommodate our Customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience,” the airline mentioned in an announcement. “We’re offering Customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on, where they can get updates on the status of their travel.”

Leocha says prospects ought to ask about “distressed passenger” lodge charges. He says airways have offers with close by accommodations which will yield a 30% to 50% low cost for stranded friends. They’re sometimes provided to elite passengers, he mentioned, however may be prolonged to different vacationers.

Cash refunds

When an airline cancels the flight, passengers are entitled to get their a refund for the ticket in the event that they resolve to not journey. And they need to insist on money over vouchers.

“If you elect not to be accommodated on a later flight, you are entitled to a cash refund, though that may not help you get to where you need to go,” mentioned Robert Feinberg, a advertising and marketing specialist with airfare web site Scott’s Cheap Flights.

But that is the extent of it. Headed to board a cruise or to a live performance that you’re going to now miss? The airline will not be accountable for these prices.

“Airlines are not required to reimburse you for any trip costs affected by the cancelled flight, such as a prepaid hotel room, a cruise, a vacation, concert or other tickets, or lost wages,” according to the DOT.

You may need some recourse by way of journey insurance coverage.

“If you booked with a credit card, be sure to check if you are covered by a travel insurance policy that might reimburse you for extra expenses incurred like hotels or the cost of a new flight home,” Feinberg advises.

He additionally suggests writing to buyer help after the actual fact to precise your disappointment. Sometimes which will end in a voucher for future journey.

Each airline has a contract of carriage that passengers enter into once they buy tickets. They have “force majeure” clauses that restrict their legal responsibility in instances the place service will not be accomplished or disrupted.

The “force majeure” in Southwest Airlines’ contract of carriage may be any of a protracted checklist of occasions together with acts of God, climate, riots, wars, labor disputes, strikes, work stoppages, air visitors management and “the inability to obtain fuel, airport gates, labor, or landing facilities for the flight in question.”
The airline blamed this weekend’s cancellations on restricted staffing in Florida, dangerous climate and air visitors management issues, though the precise causes for the disruptions are a subject of debate.

Whatever the trigger, the broad contract of carriage appears to cowl it.

Top picture: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 jet taxis to the gate after touchdown at Midway International Airport in Chicago on April 6. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images