With the holidays upon us, more and more people will be traveling to see family, and friends and enjoy some much-needed vacations. However, with the winter weather upon us as well, travel issues are inevitable. That has consumers wondering what kind of flight delay reimbursements currently exist.
That knowledge can come in handy — particularly when the airports are busy and/or when there are multiple connecting flights. However, it’s also good information to have on hand year-round.
For instance, the Department of Transportation (DoT) said “air carriers canceled 3.2 percent of their domestic flights in the first six months of the year, up from 2.4 percent in the first half of 2019.”
While flight capacities have essentially returned to pre-pandemic levels, it hasn’t been a smooth rebound. Consumer complaints are up almost 270% from pre-pandemic levels.
Further, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK) and Hawaiian Holdings (NASDAQ:HA) had the highest on-time ratings earlier this year. Allegiant (NASDAQ:ALGT), Frontier (NASDAQ:ULCC) and JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) were among the worst.
So what are the criteria when it comes to receiving flight delay reimbursement? Unfortunately, it’s not so cut and dry.
The Skinny on Flight Delay Reimbursement
Perhaps not surprisingly, the rules are pretty straightforward in Europe and… not so straightforward here in the U.S.
In Europe, if facing a fight delay or cancellation, travelers are entitled to some form of compensation. Depending on the reason for the delay will determine whether or not travelers receive compensation.
“Extraordinary circumstances” such as weather, political strife, or air traffic control decisions are considered reasons that travelers would not receive any compensation. But delays of three hours or more related to technical difficulties or mechanical problems don’t fall under that same category.
Whether you are flying within Europe, from Europe to other countries, or connecting flights within the U.S., these same rules apply.
In the U.S., Congress is supposed to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) funding next year, which could in turn mean that more European-like regulations would hit the U.S. Until then, travelers looking for any kind of flight delay reimbursement will have to rely on current methods.
Per the law, currently U.S. airlines “are not legally required to compensate passengers for a delay or cancellation.” However, while not required legally, some airlines have committed to it. That said, if the flight is canceled by the airline then they are required to offer a refund to travelers.
Further: “The Department of Transportation states that air travelers are entitled to refunds if they choose not to travel after a flight cancellation, schedule change or significant delay.”
So what’s the bottom line on flight delay reimbursement?
If a passenger’s flight is canceled, they are entitled to a refund. However, if there is a significant delay or disruption, travelers are likely entitled to some form of flight delay reimbursement. That said, if it’s outside of the airlines’ control, then there is plenty of gray area to navigate.
On the date of publication, Bret Kenwell did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.