CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The tens of thousands of passengers stuck due to Southwest Airlines delays learned firsthand that federally there are very few protections when it comes to airline cancellations.
The Department of Transportation states on its website, “Airlines are not required to provide passengers with money or other compensation for costs that fall outside of the canceled airline ticket and fees tied directly to the airline ticket.”
This means for passengers on canceled or delayed Southwest flights, hotels, meals and compensation for missing events are not covered.
For more frequently asked questions and answers on the Southwest travel delays, click here.
Airlines are also not required to rebook you on another competitor’s flights.
The DOT advises, “Ask the airline or check online to see if another carrier has open seats and then ask if the first airline will transfer your ticket to that carrier. Remember, however, that airlines are not required to do this.”
Passengers on those flights are entitled to a full refund or a rebooking of their flights on another plane from that company.
So those thousands of Southwest passengers can get another flight from the company once they are available.
Refunds also include nonrefundable flights if the airlines cancels the scheduled departure.
“Passengers who purchase nonrefundable tickets are not entitled to a refund unless the airline makes a promise to provide a refund or the airline cancels a flight or makes a significant schedule change,” The DOT website elaborates.
The lack of passenger rights in this area is due to the policy of Force Majeure, which means airlines are protected from liability in everything from weather issues to labor disputes to mechanical errors impacting flights.
More than 1,900 flights were canceled by the airline over the weekend, according to the online tracker FlightAware. The Dallas-based airline blamed air traffic control issues and bad weather for weekend “operational challenges” that resulted in the cancellations. On Monday, Southwest canceled more than 430 flights and delayed 1,517 flights.
By early Tuesday morning, Southwest had canceled about 90 flights and more than 190 others were delayed.