Claiming compensation for airline delays can be incredibly difficult — the process can take weeks and involve going back-and-forth with the airline numerous times. A lot of people don’t actually realize they’re eligible to claim compensation for flight delays and cancellations, only becoming aware of it when airlines initiate the process themselves.
Here’s a quick guide of what to do during a delay or cancellation, how to find out what you’re entitled to and what to remember:
Find out the reason for the delay or cancellation
There are numerous reasons why a flight might be delayed, but airlines generally only provide you with any compensation if the delay is for a reason within their control. Controllable reasons include things like maintenance issues, a plane being late to arrive to the airport, crew scheduling problems, aircraft cleaning or baggage loading. Uncontrollable ones can be due to weather, medical emergencies, ground delays or air traffic control or unruly passengers.
Know the rules and rights you’re entitled to
When an issue is outside of an airline’s control, there’s not much you should expect — WestJet, Air Canada, United, Southwest and most other airlines will provide you with a voucher for a discounted hotel room. They’ll also book you on the next flight that is departing either from the same airport or one nearby, depending on what seats are available.
Cameron Bursey was supposed to catch a 10 a.m. flight from Deer Lake, Nfld., to Toronto on December 12. His flight was delayed when a storm suddenly rolled into the area surrounding the airport.
“The next available flight was 10 hours, back to Toronto, and it didn’t happen until we had arrived to Deer Lake,” he explained. He was visiting family and was due to fly back into Toronto Pearson airport, en-route back to his home in Kitchener.
Issues within the control of airlines, on the other hand, are a different story. Depending on the length of the delay, expect meal vouchers for food in the airport, a hotel and airport transfer if your travel is delayed significantly, or drinks and snacks if the delay happens while you’re on the aircraft.
In both cases, if you’re no longer interested in flying, airlines will be more than happy to either issue a travel voucher or a refund for the unused portion of the trip, but if you try to book a last-minute flight with a different company, it could end up costing much more than initially paid.
Check-in early and download the app
Most airlines will allow for passengers to check-in 24 hours before their flight — it’s important to do so, as this will allow for people to select a seat for free and is one of the factors that is looked at when determining who to bump on oversold flights.
Bumping happens when an airline oversells a flight — it allows more people to purchase seats than the actual number of seats, and happens mostly when it has to swap out one airplane for another at the last minute. Though it helps airlines keep their cost down by ensuring that planes aren’t flying when they’re only half full, it sometimes results in people being either voluntarily or forcibly bumped from their flight.
Find out whether your credit card company has your back
You might be in luck if you booked your ticket using your credit card. The AmEx Cobalt and Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite credit cards offer up to $500 in delay compensation, among many other cards on the market. It’s always worth contacting your credit card company to see whether they offer anything of this sort.
Remain calm and kind
It’s important to remember that, while you’re stressed out, the gate agents responsible for bumping and rebooking passengers are too! The best way to get service quickly is to remain calm and polite.