Winnie Murugi
Winnie Murugi
Health and Beauty Expert

Flight delays and cancellations are common in airports, and the US is no exception. Besides, some airports have more of them than others. 

According to InsureMyTrip’s research, in 2023, San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport had the highest percentage of delayed flights at 30.97%. And Liberty International Airport, Newark, New Jersey, had the country’s highest flight cancellation rate, 2.84%. All these delays and cancellations significantly impact travelers, leading to widespread frustration.

There are over 500 airline companies listed on the PissedConsumer platform. And the most frequently reported consumer issues are canceled and delayed flights and getting refunds. 

In this article, we will provide you with practical tips on navigating and resolving these situations effectively. 

Key Insights

  • Why do flights get canceled or delayed? For various reasons, including extreme weather, a directive by the Federal Aviation and Administration (FAA), carrier-related and security issues.
  • The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to offer customers flight cancellation compensation and refund them if the airline cancels the flight, regardless of the reason.
  • There is no clear-cut policy regarding refunds for delayed flights. Refund policies vary from airline to airline. 

Why Do Flights Get Delayed or Canceled?

One of the most frequent customer questions to airlines is, "Why do flights get delayed or canceled?” According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the most common reasons for flight delays and cancellations are:

  • Delay or cancellation by the air carrier. This can happen due to maintenance problems, crew problems, delays or issues with baggage loading, and aircraft cleaning, among others. Also, if there is a late arrival of an aircraft that is to be used for the next flight, it can cause delays in subsequent flights.
  • Extreme weather. If there are significant meteorological conditions, an airline may cancel or delay their flights. For example, if there is an actual or forecasted hurricane, tornado, or blizzard. 
  • Directive to cancel or delay flights from the Federal Aviation and Administration (FAA). The FAA regulates air traffic. They may restrict landing or taking off to ensure safety for all and efficient use of airport infrastructure.
  • Security issues. For example, malfunctioning of security screening equipment, security threat, or unauthorized persons accessing restricted areas.

How to Prepare for Potential Flight Delays or Cancellations

When your dream vacation is disrupted by unexpected delays or canceled flights, getting things right can be a headache. But if you are prepared and know what to do, it reduces stress and inconvenience. 

Here are some ways you can follow to stay calm and organized:

  • Check the weather forecast for your departure and destination location. If the forecast indicates extreme weather, your flight will likely be canceled or delayed.
  • Download the airline's app for real-time updates. Most airlines update flight information in real-time and will indicate if a flight is canceled or delayed.
  • Book your tickets with reputable airlines. Some airlines are more notorious for flight cancellations than others, as per the experience of our reviewers, highlighted in our worst to best airlines article. 
  • Pack essentials for potential airport delays or flight cancellations. It helps you to handle everything more effectively and with less stress in case of a delay or cancellation.
  • Consider travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses. Travel insurance offers coverage to mitigate inconveniences and financial losses caused by flight delays and cancellations.

What to Do if Your Flight Is Canceled

Your flight has been canceled, and you don’t know what to do? Below are steps you can take if you find yourself in such a situation.

Contact your airline promptly

As soon as you find out that your flight has been canceled, contact the airline’s or travel agency’s customer service to explore alternative options. Use the most prompt contact option available to you. 

If you are already at the airport, seek assistance at the airline’s office. Alternatively, reach customer support via phone, live chat, or social media.

However, review #5845640 on PissedСonsumer indicates that some customers have difficulty contacting their airline’s customer support for a refund on canceled flights since sometimes they “can’t speak to a real person”.

Check cancellation and delay dashboard

To improve airlines’ commitment to their customers, the Secretary of Transportation called upon airlines to indicate the type of compensation they will provide to their passengers due to flight cancellations that are within the airline’s control.

This information is provided on the official website of the US Department of Transportation, specifically on the . Select your carrier and find the “Cancellation and Delay dashboard” to see your airline’s flight cancellation compensation policy.

DOT - Airline Customer Service DashboardSource: US Department of Transportation

DOT is mandated to hold the airlines accountable to these commitments. So if your airline fails to honor its customer service commitment despite making a claim, you may file a complaint with DOT.

Ask for a refund

Remember that consumers are entitled to a refund of the ticket price and associated fees if the airline cancels a flight, regardless of the reason. 

However, according to the US Department of Transportation and flight rights stated on its official website, "for domestic itineraries airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled." Furthermore, refund policies also vary for different airlines.

DOT - flight cancellation refundSource: US Department of Transportation

Customer reviews on PissedConsumer indicate that customers often have difficulty getting refunds for their canceled flights. For example, issues with refunds are among the top eDreams complaints. In eDreams review #5845194, the customer shares their experience with getting a refund: 

I requested a refund in January and still have not received it. I have tried to follow up multiple times.

They were told they would receive a voucher as their airline compensation, however, the reviewer claimed they didn’t get it either.

What to Do if Your Flight Is Delayed? 

Many consumers wonder: “Do airlines have to compensate for delays?”

As per DOT, "each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements."

DOT further states that consumers are entitled to airline delay compensation if the airline makes a major change or significantly delays a flight and a consumer chooses not to travel. However, they do not clearly define “significant delay”.

DOT - Schedule change and significant delay rulesSource: US Department of Transportation

That said, here are some options to explore if your flight has been delayed:

Monitor the situation

Stay up-to-date with the flight status by checking the Airline app, social media pages, and airport monitors. Also, be on the lookout for text alerts that the airline may send directly to your phone. 

Explore options for rebooking 

In case of a significant delay, contact your airline’s customer service to request rebooking. If you booked with a travel agency, contact them for help with rebooking.

Unfortunately, customers are not always able to rebook their flights even with significant delays. For instance, in one of the American Airlines reviews, the customer explains that they “had to cancel the honeymoon” due to weather-related delays. They were not able to rebook flights to their honeymoon destination and are now seeking a refund from the airline:

Was told to reschedule flight, we did, then that flight got cancelled and it re routed us and we missed our connection.

Be prepared for overnight stays

Sometimes, delayed flights result in an overnight stay. Therefore, it is best to be prepared for such an occurrence. Pack some essentials for an overnight stay and have extra cash for meals and accommodation.

Check the Airline Customer Service Dashboard to establish if they offer airline delay compensation. This can be in the form of meal vouchers and hotel accommodation. If not, try to book a hotel room on your own. Ensure that you keep your electronic devices charged and be on the lookout for further updates on the delayed flight.

Know Your Rights

Understanding your consumer rights can help you deal with airport delays and canceled flights more effectively. Therefore, before booking your flight, read online reviews to identify common consumer issues when dealing with airlines. For instance, you can browse reviews to look for consumer insights on how to resolve flight delays and cancellation issues.

There are many online consumer communities like the PissedConsumer Club where you can find valuable resources, helpful information, ask for assistance from consumer experts, collaborate with fellow customers, and more to help you become a smart consumer and make an informed decision.

Have You Had Your Flight Delayed or Canceled?

Have you ever experienced a flight delay or cancellation? If so, was your issue resolved by the airline you chose? You may leave a review on Your experience is worth sharing!

Legal disclaimers:

  1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.
  2. All or some image copyright belongs to the original owner(s). No copyright infringement intended.

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