If Your Flight Is Canceled, You Need to Know This DOT Rule

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KEY POINTS

  • Air travel has been unpleasant for consumers this year, and now we're entering a busy holiday travel season.
  • Consumers need to know their rights if their airline cancels their flight.
  • According to the Department of Transportation, the airline owes you a cash refund if your flight is canceled.

Dealing with a canceled flight? You need to know this.

Anyone who has taken a trip over the past year has probably become aware of the fact that airline customer service has not been very good in 2022. In fact, thousands of complaints were filed with the Department of Transportation (DOT) during the busy summer travel season, with customers lamenting late cancellations of air flights, unexpected delays, and more.

Now we're entering one of the busiest travel times of the year as people head off to their holiday destinations. And if you've broken out the credit cards to buy airline tickets, it's important you're aware of your rights in case there are further problems.

In particular, there's one DOT rule you absolutely must know if you face a flight cancellation.

If you're flight is canceled, here's what you're entitled to

If you face a flight cancellation, you should be aware of the fact that the Department of Transportation requires your airline to offer a cash refund. This is true regardless of the airline's reason for canceling the flight. The cash refund must fully cover the cost you paid for the trip.

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Airlines also owe you a full cash refund if they make a significant change to your schedule when you booked a trip.

Many people, unfortunately, are not aware of this fact. And airlines often don't tell travelers that this is the case. It's very common for airlines to offer travel vouchers, miles, or airline credits when they cancel flights. And they are allowed to offer these options as alternatives to a cash refund. But Americans often accept these offers because they wrongly assume this is the only compensation that is available to them, which isn't true.

If your airline offers you miles or vouchers after your flight is canceled or a big change is made to your trip, you can accept if this makes sense for you. But, if you don't want to be tied into taking that same airline and you would prefer to just get your money back so you can do what you want to with it, you have that right -- even if your airline doesn't tell you that this is the case.

Knowing this rule can help you to better advocate for yourself when you are dealing with a flight cancellation. If your airline suggests that miles are your only option or tells you that you can't get a refund, this is simply not true and you should insist on getting the cash back that the Department of Transportation rules entitle you to receive.

How to protect your rights as a passenger

It can sometimes feel like airlines have all of the power when it comes to delaying or canceling your flight and deciding how to compensate you for their decisions. But the reality is that knowing your rights can help you ensure you aren't treated badly as a consumer.

The Department of Transportation has a detailed listing of your rights as a flier, so if you have doubts about whether an airline is acting fairly, consider checking this resource to find out what the rules are that apply to your situation. You may just find that the government has protections in place that your airline must honor.

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