How to Handle Flight Delays and Cancellations

With weather being one of the leading causes of air travel delays this year, here’s how to prepare for delays or cancellations during hurricane season.

Before you travel, download your airline’s app, which often shows an aircraft’s location and also posts timely updates on a flight’s status or gate changes. Updates may appear here before anywhere else.

The day of your flight, you can also scan FlightAware, a flight-tracking service accessible by app and website, to get a sense of delays and cancellations across major airports.

The Transportation Department’s airline cancellation and delay dashboard is another helpful resource that spells out what 10 of the larger domestic airlines offer passengers.

When information isn’t always readily available online, experts suggest calling an airline’s customer service for more guidance.

In the United States, if your flight is canceled, for whatever reason, all airlines must either rebook you on another flight or give you a prompt refund, even if you have a nonrefundable ticket, according to the Transportation Department.

In the European Union, flight cancellations or long delays may give passengers the right to either a refund or a replacement flight. The rule covers all passengers, regardless of nationality, and outbound flights from and within the European Union, including on U.S. carriers. On flights into E.U. countries, it applies only to E.U. carriers.

AirHelp, a Berlin-based flight compensation company, has a comprehensive guide outlining passenger rights in many countries.

That said, when it comes to covering meal or accommodations because of weather-related flight changes, you may be out of luck. Any compensation or help offered by the airlines hinges on whether the reason for the cancellation lies within a carrier’s control, such as staffing or maintenance issues. Air traffic control woes and the weather are not.

It may feel unfair, but “If your flight is canceled because of a thunderstorm,” said Scott Keyes, the founder of, a website that sends alerts for travel deals, “don’t expect the airline to cover your meals or accommodations.”

In response to Hurricane Idalia, major domestic carriers are offering free rebooking options through Thursday to affected travelers with flights at airports in the southeastern United States, including Orlando International Airport and Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia.

United Airlines said it had added extra flights from Orlando International Airport and Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

Christine Chung is a travel reporter for The Times. She previously covered breaking news. She joined The Times in November 2021. More about Christine Chung

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