Southwest Airlines Cancellation: What are the rights of airline passengers?

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(CNN)— Your flight has been cancelled. You must stay in a hotel and pay for dinner or scramble to find a rental car. What qualifications do you have?

Faced with thousands of flight cancellations on weekends and Mondays, many frustrated Southwest Airlines customers asked this question.

In addition to rebooking passengers or refunding cancelled flights, American Airlines is not obligated to do too much for passengers, even if there is more than one day left for the next available flight.

Charlie Leocha, president and co-founder of Travellers United, a non-profit organization advocating consumer rights, said: “There are no real rules that allow passengers to receive any form of compensation or even overnight accommodation when they are really late.”

Travellers United has been trying to get the U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress to adopt similar protection measures for air passengers in Europe, including hotel accommodations and other compensation for major delays and interruptions.
The Ministry of Transportation’s regulations are clear: “Airlines do not need to provide passengers with money or other compensation to make up for expenses other than the cancelled ticket and the expenses directly related to the ticket,” said the Ministry of Transportation’s website.

But DOT pointed out that airlines have their own policies. It advises passengers to ask airline staff whether they will pay for hotel rooms or meals.

Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to CNN Travel’s questions about hotel or meal compensation, but the airline said it is working to get passengers to rebook.

The airline said in a statement: “We are working hard to serve our customers as quickly as possible, and we thank them for their patience.” “We provide customers with greater flexibility so that they can be on Southwest.com Explore the self-service rebooking options, where they can get the latest information on the status of their trip.”

Leocha said customers should ask “distressed passengers” about hotel prices. He said that airlines reached deals with nearby hotels to provide stranded guests with discounts of 30% to 50%. He said they are usually provided to elite passengers, but can also be extended to other passengers.

Cash refund

According to the Ministry of Transportation, airlines don’t need to rebook passengers on flights with another airline, although they do it sometimes, and it’s definitely worth asking.

Southwest Airlines does not charge a change fee, but there are usually fare differences. The airline has not yet responded to inquiries about whether the fare difference applies to this weekend’s interruption.

When an airline cancels a flight, if the passenger decides not to travel, they have the right to request a refund of the ticket money. They should insist on cash instead of vouchers.

Robert Feinberg, a marketing expert at the airline ticket website Scott’s Cheap Flights, said: “If you choose not to take a future flight, you are entitled to a cash refund, although this may not help you get where you need to go.”

But this is the extent of it. Going to board a cruise ship or attend a concert you would miss now? The airline is not responsible for these costs.

DOT stated: “The airline does not need to compensate you for any travel expenses incurred due to flight cancellations, such as prepaid hotel rooms, cruises, holidays, concerts or other tickets, or lost wages.”

You may be able to get some recourse through travel insurance.

“If you book with a credit card, be sure to check whether you are covered by travel insurance, which may compensate you for additional costs, such as the cost of a hotel or a new flight home,” Feinberg suggested.

He also recommends writing to customer support afterwards to express your disappointment. Sometimes this may result in vouchers for future travel.

Every airline has a transportation contract that passengers sign when they buy a ticket. They have “force majeure” clauses that limit their liability if the service is not completed or interrupted.

The “force majeure” in the Southwest Airlines transportation contract can be any of a series of events such as natural disasters, weather, riots, wars, labor disputes, strikes, work stoppages, air traffic control, and “unavailability of fuel”. , Airport gates, labor or related flight landing facilities. “
The airline blamed the cancellation this weekend on limited personnel in Florida, severe weather and air traffic control issues, although the exact cause of the interruption is a controversial topic.

Whatever the reason, it seems to be covered by a broad contract of carriage.

Above: After landing at Chicago Midway International Airport on April 6, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 jet taxi drove to the gate. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

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