delayed flight compensation: know what to ask for next time you fly

Canceled, delayed flights are likely over July 4 holiday weekend. More than 2,000 flights delayed as holiday weekend kicks off. Almost 8,000 US flights delayed or canceled due to severe storms.

These were the headlines leading into the fourth of July weekend. And while that’s not what you want to see before heading to the airport, what delayed flight compensation exists and having access to some travel protections can make a huge difference in your summer travel plans. Today we’ll show you how to protect your summer vacation and why you might already have all you need!

Welcome back to summer school and happy 4th of July to our listeners in the USA! Honestly, we’re usually laying low on this holiday. We’re typically between trips, which is exactly where we are now. So we’re having a low key celebration with family, but it’s generally a very busy travel time. And European travel this summer is something like a record high this year so we’re right on time I think for this episode. 

No one wants to hear your flight is canceled or delayed. But what can you do about it? Turns out, you’re not as out of luck as the airlines would have you believe! Today we’re going to give you a quick overview of the delayed flight compensation you’re entitled to as an airline passenger. Let’s just start by saying that this gets a little complicated. We’re just going to go over the basics today- but if you, unfortunately, find yourself in this situation, we will have some resources towards the end of the episode to help you out. 

First thing to know is that protections in the EU (European Union) are a lot stronger than the US. That’s great news if you’re part of the record breaking number of people going to the EU this summer (like us!), but if you’re traveling domestically, it might make it a little harder. So let’s start with the good news. 

In the EU, if your flight is canceled, delayed, you are bumped from an oversold flight or your baggage is delayed/damaged, then you PROBABLY have a case for compensation. The only real exception here is going to be weather. Unfortunately, if weather is the cause of the interruption, there is little that is REQUIRED by an airline. That doesn’t mean they won’t help you – it just means that technically they don’t have to. 

If it isn’t weather (or other Extraordinary Circumstances like safety issues), you can count on EC 261 to help you out. 

Airlines determine the amount of compensation based on the length of time you are delayed and how far you are traveling. If you meet the criteria, you are entitled to: 

  • Meals and refreshments during the delay
  • Access to communications, including two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, and emails
  • If overnight accommodations are necessary, they must provide you with a hotel room and transportation to and from the airport

And this could be up to $700 in compensation, so its worth a little research if you think you’re trip falls into this category!

Okay, now to the US, which is sadly behind the times compared to the EU. 

There is no federal law that mandates compensation for domestic flights in the US. BUT don’t fear! Almost all major airlines have policies to compensate you on delayed or canceled flights. (Big one for US is denied boarding on overbooked flights)

Most major airlines (not the budget, like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant) will rebook you on partner airlines at no additional cost, they will cover food and accommodations on overnight delays. 

Spirit and Allegiant will typically cover hotel expenses in an overnight delay as well and Frontier will give you a measly voucher for airport food. 

Before we tell you some other, potentially safer ways to protect your travel, I want to mention the Montreal Convention, which does allow compensation for lost/damaged luggage when traveling internationally to 130 countries (including Asian countries,  which have been left off this explanation of benefits because they are also not required to compensate you!).

Okay, if you don’t want to rely on the airline’s compensation department, there are other ways to protect yourself. 

Travel Credit Cards have a lot more hidden benefits than you may realize. Most major travel cards come with some level of protection. While these might not be as robust as “real” travel insurance, they are great as a benefit to a card you already love. The best of the credit card insurance is probably Chase because it covers many different types of delays and cancellations. AMEX and Capital One also have pretty great coverage for delays with the nicer protections coming from the more expensive cards (no surprises there!). Before you go on a trip, its a good idea to check the fine print on your credit card trip protections so you know what you can request, should it happen to you. It’s much easier to check before you go, rather than waiting until you’re scrambling in an airport! 

Of course, the best travel protections are going to come from travel insurance. Travel insurance is also going to have its list of exclusions, and some of them might surprise you. Again, the best practice is to read through the fine print. The best part of travel insurance is that you can add “cancel for any reason” to your plan. And it means just that – you’ll get reimbursed for part or all of your trip for any reason. If you have preexisting conditions or if you’re already nervous about a location, I would highly recommend tacking on cancel for any reason so you’re protected. 

Want to jump into travel credit cards?

Check out all our resources on the wonderful world of travel credit cards. Travel credit cards are the #1 we’re able to travel as much as we do on teacher’s salaries- it’s the secret travel blogger trick that I’m here to teach you about! Start with the link below to see our exact set up and how we use it.

Our favorite travel credit cards

And last but not least, a good way to help your chances of avoding a major delay or cancellations is – when booking your flight, remember that a departure early in the day is less likely to be delayed than a later flight, due to “ripple” effects of delays throughout the day.

If you want to check to see if your flight qualifies for compensation, there’s a cool tool we’ll link in the show notes called AirHelp. They’ll file a claim for you, but you’ll have to fork over 35% of your earnings, or you can just use them as essentially a search tool for compensation and file on your own, if needed. 

While we hope this doesn’t happen to you, it’s good to know your options for delayed flight compensation if it does! We hope we can help you avoid a headache this summer and that you’ll never need this episode! If you’re flying this summer, make sure to let us know about the ups and downs in our exclusive facebook community! Have you ever had luck getting compensation for a delay or cancellation? Tell us your successes (or failures) in the comments below! 

Meet the Bargers

Bruce and Shelly are a 30-something couple always on the lookout for cheap eats, wildlife sightings and a good brewery. They started traveling together ten years ago and haven't looked back. They travel internationally at least three times a year and have been to 42 states, all while holding those pesky 9-5 jobs. They hope you can take these travel tips and live the life you've only dreamed about!

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