How to Get Airline Compensation for Canceled Flights

Three Methods:Negotiating with the AirlineUsing Credit Card BenefitsBuying Travel Insurance

When an airline cancels your flight, it may be more than simply inconvenient – especially if you're traveling for reasons other than leisure. Unfortunately, U.S. law doesn't require airlines to compensate passengers for the cancellation of domestic flights. If you're flying internationally, you may be legally entitled to compensation, but not without navigating a complex web of foreign and international law.[1] Regardless, there are still ways to get airline compensation for canceled flights if you are persistent and do a little planning before you buy your tickets.

Method 1
Negotiating with the Airline

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    Determine if any international laws apply. Although U.S. law doesn't require airlines to compensate travelers for canceled domestic flights, you may be entitled to compensation for international flights.[2]
    • For example, Article 19 of an international treaty called the Warsaw Convention requires airlines to compensate passengers for any direct costs caused by a delay or cancellation, such as transportation, food, and accommodations.
    • The European Union also has regulations regarding airline compensation for cancelled flights, provided the cancellation was due to something within the carrier's flight such as overbooking.[3]
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    Check the airline's rules and policies. Even if compensation isn't required by law, many airlines have their own corporate policies allowing some manner of compensation for canceled flights.[4][5]
    • Keep in mind that full-service airlines are more likely to offer compensation for canceled flights than their no-frills, budget counterparts.
    • Typically, the airline will offer to rebook you on the next available flight. However, this may cause complications if the flight doesn't leave for several hours or even days after the flight on which you were initially scheduled – particularly if you have an appointment at your destination or need to catch a connecting flight.
    • Some airlines have a policy of reimbursing you for expenses you incurred for food or lodging as a result of a flight cancellation, but you must submit receipts and other information to the airline after the fact.
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    Contact the airline's customer service department. You should be able to find a phone number or website for customer service issues on your purchase confirmation, ticket, or boarding pass.
    • You may get a more favorable response from the customer service line than you do from the employee at the ticket counter in the airport. That employee has to deal with potentially every person on your flight, while the customer service representative likely is working under less stressful conditions.
    • Use facts to back up your argument that the canceled flight is more than a mere inconvenience for you, but avoid exaggerating or making something up to make your situation sound more dire.
    • Keep in mind that if the airline does agree to compensate you, it likely will ask for proof of whatever loss you claim to have suffered.
    • Take detailed notes during your phone call, including the date and time of your call and the names of any representatives with whom you speak.
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    Put your request in writing. Conducting your negotiations in writing provides you with proof of any promises that are made on the airline's behalf.
    • If you are offered compensation by a telephone representative, write a letter as soon as possible detailing the conversation and the compensation offered. Include copies of any documents, receipts, or other information you were told to provide.
    • Many airlines such as United also will provide a verification letter for you upon your request, which you can use as proof your flight was canceled.[6] This letter may help you mitigate damages suffered as a result of any appointments or reservations you have to postpone or change as a result of your canceled flight.
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    Follow up with your request. Even if the airline has no corporate policy or legal requirement to compensate you for a canceled flight, persistence can pay off.
    • If a reasonable amount of time has passed and the airline has refused your request for compensation or hasn't responded, look for the name of a director or manager to whom you can direct your future correspondence.
    • You might also consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Since U.S. law doesn't require airline compensation for canceled flights, this likely won't get you much further, but the complaint will be passed on to the airline.[7]
    • To record a complaint about airline service with the DOT, you can call 202-366-2220. A DOT agent will return your call during regular business hours. You also can use the DOT's web form or write a letter and send it to Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E., Washington, DC 20590.

Method 2
Using Credit Card Benefits

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    Check your credit card agreement. Many credit cards provide travel insurance as a benefit to cardholders who purchase plane tickets using that card.[8]
    • While many travel-oriented credit products offer travel insurance that provides compensation for expenses directly incurred as a result of a canceled flight, the coverage amounts and restrictions vary significantly. For example, some of these policies provide protection for the cardholder only, not members of your family who may have been traveling with you.
    • Ideally, you should check the protections offered by your credit cards before you book your trip so you can use the card that provides the greatest level of protection in the event something goes wrong.
    • While a few credit card companies do provide compensation for canceled flights, these policies most frequently cover accidents and loss or damage to luggage.
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    Contact customer service. Typically you can take advantage of any travel benefits provided by your credit card company by calling the customer service number on the back of your credit card.
    • If you had to sign up separately for travel insurance benefits from your credit card company, there may be a separate phone number for you to call.
    • Keep in mind that some of the cards require an additional sign-up process or fees to activate these benefits. This typically must be done before you purchase your tickets or go on your trip.[9]
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    Explain your situation. Tell the customer service representative what happened to you and confirm the situation is covered by your cardholder benefits.
    • Credit card companies that cover the costs of a delay, cancellation, or trip interruption typically only do so under certain circumstances such as weather or equipment failure. If your flight was canceled for some reason other than those covered by your credit card's policy, don't expect any compensation.[10]
    • You may need to submit a verification letter from the airline stating the reason your flight was canceled.
    • Find out from the customer service representative what information and documentation is required for your claim to be processed, as well as any deadlines your credit card company may have for filing a claim.[11]
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    Submit your claim. Follow your credit card company's guidelines to claim reimbursement or other compensation for your canceled flight.[12]
    • Typically the credit card company will only reimburse expenses you paid using their credit card, and you'll still have to provide significant documentation of the need for those expenses and their relation to the cancellation of your flight.
    • Most credit card companies have a maximum amount of expenses they will reimburse, and not every expense will qualify even if your total is below that threshold.
    • For example, your credit card company may be willing to reimburse food expenses for meals you had to eat at the airport as a result of a flight cancellation or delay, but it may balk at covering a dinner you ate at a five-star restaurant downtown after learning your flight was canceled.

Method 3
Buying Travel Insurance

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    Compare policies in advance. Look at the prices and coverage levels of several different travel insurance policies before you commit to one.[13][14]
    • If you plan to buy travel insurance, you should purchase it either on the same day you book your trip or as soon afterward as possible.
    • If you travel frequently, you may want to consider a multi-trip or annual policy, which can save you both time and money compared to purchasing travel insurance for each trip separately.
    • Different policies cover travel for different lengths of time, and cover different types of risks. Typically the more risks are covered, the more expensive the policy will be.
    • You may want to check with a third-party such as a travel agent or a travel website if you're unsure about different types of policies.
    • You also should consider talking to friends, particularly if you know someone who is a frequent traveler or who just returned from a trip similar to the one you want to take. In addition to their recommendations, their stories can help you assess the risks you might encounter on your trip.
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    Choose the policy that best meets your needs. Which policy is the best fit for you will depend on where you're going, how long you'll be gone, and the reasons for your trip.[15]
    • The policy that will work best for you also depends on how much risk you are willing to take. That may fluctuate depending on where you plan to travel. For example, you may want more comprehensive coverage if you're planning a safari in Africa than you would want if you were visiting Toronto for a week to stay with friends.
    • Travel insurance may go beyond compensation for canceled flights to include medical or legal expenses as well as coverage for personal liability while you're on your trip.
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    Keep in touch with your carrier. Once you've purchased your travel insurance policy, make sure you update your carrier if any plans or details change that might affect your coverage.[16]
    • You typically must notify your carrier if you change travel plans, particularly the date of your departure or locations you plan to visit.
    • You also should notify your carrier if you expand your trip, causing your travel expenses to increase significantly, as the cost of your trip typically affects the maximum amount your policy covers.
    • Additionally, your policy is designed to cover your trip based on the costs you provide. Any difference between the actual cost and the figures you gave your insurance company can result in a claim being denied.[17]
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    Preserve receipts and documentation. Review the claim forms and information before your trip begins so you have a sense of the types of information your carrier requires to process a claim.[18][19]
    • You typically will need information about your trip including your dates of travel, as well as copies of receipts for any expenses you incurred as result of the cancellation.
    • If your flight is delayed or canceled, contact the airline and ask for a verification letter. The insurance company may require it to process your claim.[20]
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    File your claim as soon as possible. Your claim is less likely to be denied if you file it soon after your flight is canceled, rather than racking up additional expenses.[21]
    • Travel insurance companies typically only cover a certain amount of related expenses per day, so it's in your best interest to mitigate your damages to the extent possible.
    • When you file your claim, make sure you've included all requested information and documentation.

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Categories: Air Travel