CLEVELAND — Legal analysis: Even when we’re not dealing with a global pandemic, airlines are known for changing reservations at the last minute.
Legally speaking, we can’t stop them from doing it. Airlines don't have to guarantee their schedules.
But if your flight does change and it no longer works for you, or gets cancelled all together, there are some tips you should know.
You can always look for a flight on another airline. And if you find one that works, ask the first airline if it will cover that ticket for you. For same day travel, most legacy airlines like Delta, United and American have deals with each other to make that work, but airlines like Spirit and Frontier may not offer those kinds of deals.
And remember, even though they can do make this accommodation for you, there’s no law requiring them to do this.
If your flight is cancelled, most airlines will rebook you on their next available flight to your destination at no additional charge. If you have to stay somewhere unexpected overnight, they might even cover your hotel stay. But again, if you find a better, sooner flight on another airline, you can ask the first airline to cover that for you instead.
Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; but again.. there are no federal requirements.
If you are delayed, it's worth asking the airline staff for a meal voucher to grab a snack while you wait. But those budget airlines, especially the ones with the cheapest ticket prices, may not offer anything if you get delayed. And most won’t hand anything out if your delay is caused by bad weather or something else beyond the airline's control.
Remember, contrary to popular belief, for domestic flights, airlines are not legally required to give extra compensation to passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled.
The only time compensation is required by law on trips within the US is when you are involuntarily "bumped" from a flight that is oversold, and they can’t get you where you’re going within an hour of when you were planning to arrive.
For an involuntary cancelation, if you choose not to travel, you are entitled to a refund. This is part of the Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights, which also deals with things like restricting airlines fees and refunding baggage fees for lost or delayed luggage.
Most airlines will do their best to get you where you need to go as close possible to when you were planning to get there, even though they don’t have to.
So the moral of this story is, be your own advocate and ask for what you want. Because if you don’t ask, the answer is already no.
Stephanie Haney is licensed to practice law in both Ohio and California.
The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only. None of the information in this article is offered, nor should it be construed, as legal advice on any matter.