Southwest Airlines’ cancellations across the United States have stretched into nearly a week, in what began with Dec. 22’s wintry blast of snow. This spells pure inconvenience for many, but savvier airline passengers may have compensation coming their way.
According to FlightAware, of the 4,308 cancellations as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, 2,507 were Southwest flights, which amounts to 62 percent. On Tuesday, Southwest had 2,694 canceled flights, or 64 percent of all cancellations.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Tuesday that his department will be holding Southwest “accountable for their responsibilities to customers, both to get them through this situation and to make sure that this can’t happen again.”
With cancellations continuing as Southwest tries to reset its schedule, here’s what you can do to get money back if your flight is canceled, or if you get bumped from an overbooked flight:
Can I get money if my flight has been canceled?
According to the Department of Transportation, if your U.S.-based flight is canceled, most airlines will attempt to rebook you on another flight. As we’re seeing with Southwest, options may be limited due to other cancellations.
If you decide to cancel your trip altogether due to the canceled flight, the DOT writes you can get your money back, even if the tickets are considered non-refundable. (Southwest has a form you can use to request a monetary refund.) You also can get refunds of things like bag fees and seat upgrades.
Some airlines will also offer vouchers, but the DOT recommends you check about blackout dates and other restrictions.
International flights have different rules, depending on where you’re flying. For example, if you’re flying on an EU-operated airline or taking off from an airport within the EU, you could be eligible for up to 600 euros ($638.58 as of Dec. 28) compensation if the airline didn’t inform you about the cancellation within 14 days, according to AirAdvisor.
Check with your airline in those cases.
What if you need to fly now? Save your receipts
But what if you’re stranded somewhere, or need a flight sooner? On its website, Southwest says it will “honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel and alternate transportation,” for any flights canceled between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2, provided you have receipts.
The DOT says they don’t require airlines to do this, as each airline has its own policy when it comes to additional costs incurred by cancellations. Ask your airline representative if options like hotel rooms and rental cars are available.
Can I get paid if my flight is delayed?
On domestic flights, there’s no U.S. law that says you can get money for a delay, according to the DOT. Airlines will occasionally offer meal vouchers, but usually you end up just…waiting.
As for international flights, it all depends, again, on where the airline is based or where it’s departing from. EU-based flights, for example, do offer flight delay compensation, according to the site Which.
I can’t get through to my airline. What now?
According to CBS News, if someone in your party is part of a frequent-flier program, they may be able to get through on an exclusive line.
Another tip is to use an international toll-free number, as many airlines have offices in several countries.
Can I get paid for being bumped from a flight?
Here’s another situation that will come up – the airline oversold the flight, and staff is either asking for volunteers to take a later flight or telling passengers they will be rebooked on a later flight.
If you’re asked to voluntarily move to a later flight, airline staff will usually offer compensation, likely because airlines don’t want the bad press of an involuntary bumping. Many passengers will tell you not to take the first offer.
According to travel site The Points Guy, many airlines will have a limit to what they can offer. The DOT says the maximum offered for an involuntary bumping is 400 percent of the ticket price up to $1,550, so, according to The Points Guy, that tends to be the limit for voluntary bumpings as well.
That said, many airlines can even go above that to avoid bad PR. Delta, for example, recently offered a passenger $10,000 to rebook, according to USA TODAY.