The more you travel, the more likely that you will one day have to come face-to-face with the inevitable cancellation of a flight. It’s easy to feel powerless when an airline cancels your flight, potentially leaving you stranded and costing you time and money, but the more you know about what you are entitled to if the unthinkable happens, the better. Most major airlines have a Contract of Carriage that details what the airline will and will not be responsible for in the event of a flight cancellation, and though they often do not protect travelers against cancellations due to weather, “acts of God” like natural disasters, war or acts of terrorism, passengers are entitled to certain benefits when the airline is at fault for a cancellation.
Travel blog TripSavvy went through the lengthy documents and broke down the most important elements in the Contract of Carriage for five major airlines in the US:
American Airlines vows to get passengers to a destination in a reasonable time but warns that its timetables are not guaranteed and it reserves the right to substitute alternate carriers or aircraft.
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The Contract of Carriage for Delta details the airline’s promise to use its best efforts to carry a passenger and their baggage with “reasonable dispatch” though times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed. Schedules are subject to change without notice, and the airline notes that it is not responsible or liable for making connections, for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule of any flight.
The Contract of Carriage for United reads that times shown on tickets, timetables and published schedules are not guaranteed. The airline says it will promptly provide passengers the best available information on delays, cancellations, misconnections and diversions, but it is not liable for any misstatements or other errors or omissions in connection with providing that information.
The Southwest Airlines Contract of Carriage states that if your flight is canceled, Southwest will either get you on the next available flight or refund the unused part of the fare. Times shown on schedules, tickets and advertising are not guaranteed and Southwest notes that its flight schedules are subject to change without notice.
The Jet Blue Contract of Carriage states that travelers whose flights are canceled can receive a full refund if the flight is canceled within four hours of scheduled departure. If the cancellation is the airline’s fault, the airline will also give customers a $50 credit on the airline. Though Jet Blue will re-accommodate passengers on the next available JetBlue flight, it does not re-accommodate people on other airlines.
Read through your airline’s contract of carriages before your next flight to ensure that you get what you’re entitled to in case something goes wrong with your flight.