A powerful cold front is expected to sweep across the country in the coming days, and airlines are already feeling the effects.
The system was just getting started Wednesday morning, with more severe weather and freezing temperatures expected later in the day, into Thursday, and into Friday further east. According to FlightAware, 452 flights in the United States were cancelled shortly after 6:15 p.m. ET.
Travelers will have a more difficult time. More than 840 US flights were cancelled on Thursday, and that number is expected to rise.
The storm system is expected to continue moving east through the end of the week, and airlines have already issued waivers for some carriers in much of the Midwest, Northeast, and even parts of the South.
Here’s what you need to know about the services provided by airlines and your rights if your flight is cancelled.
What rights do I have if my flight is delayed or cancelled?
In the event that your flight is cancelled, the Department of Transportation requires all airlines to refund your ticket, even if you purchased a nonrefundable fare.
The rules regarding delays are a little more complicated, and each airline’s policy differs slightly. The DOT has a dashboard where travellers can see what they are entitled to based on their carrier.
Weather-related delays are frequently not compensated for by airlines because they are viewed as being beyond the carrier’s control.
Weather waivers for airlines
Although airlines do not compensate for many weather delays, they do try to give travellers more flexibility in advance of expected severe weather.
Many airlines are currently offering passengers in many parts of the country the option of rescheduling their flights to travel after the storm passes. Here’s a quick rundown:
American Airlines: passengers booked on existing tickets to travel to, from, or through parts of the Midwest between December 21 and 23, or parts of the Northeast between December 22 and 24, can extend their plans until December 30 without incurring change fees or fare differences.
Delta Air Lines: The airline has issued multiple waivers for travel in certain regions through December 25. Depending on which airports are included in the original itinerary, passengers may be able to change their ticket to fly as late as December 28 without paying fare differences. Except for basic economy tickets, Delta does not charge change fees.
United Airlines: Until December 25, travellers in most of the country can change their plans to December 28 or 30, depending on the region, without paying a change fee or fare difference. The exact dates and locations of waiver applicability vary by region.
Southwest Airlines: Most passengers in the Rockies, Midwest, and Northeast can change their tickets for travel through December 26 without paying a fare difference. There are no change fees on the airline.
Spirit Airlines: Passengers travelling to, from, or through many Midwest and Northeast airports through December 23 and December 24. Passengers who are affected can change their flights to December 28 or earlier without paying a fare difference or a change fee.
Frontier Airlines: Travelers scheduled to fly to, from, or through certain airports in the Northeast, Midwest, and South through December 24 can change their flight dates without paying a change fee.
JetBlue: Many passengers travelling in the Midwest or Northeast through December 23 can change their flight to December 25 or earlier without incurring a change fee or fare difference.