Here Are the Airlines That Promise to Rebook You If Your Flight Is Canceled–and Those That Won’t

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The Department of Transportation has created an online dashboard that tells you which of the top 10 U.S. airlines promise to rebook you, book you on another airline, or provide a meal or hotel room if your flight is canceled or badly delayed. You may be surprised to learn that some airlines promise hotel rooms, free meals, and rebooking on other airlines in case of a lengthy delay or cancellation–while one, Allegiant, makes no promises at all.

One item is not included in the dashboard–your right to a refund in case of a cancellation or significant delay. That’s because it goes without saying. “If an airline cancels a passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight, regardless of the reason, airlines are required to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger, including those with non-refundable tickets, should the passenger choose not to accept the alternative offered,” it says on the dashboard website. To make things easier, the DOT also provides a link to detailed information about refund rights–and another link where you should file a complaint if you’re entitled to a refund and an airline refuses to give you one.

Controllable or uncontrollable?

When it comes to their commitments to customers, most airlines draw a distinction between controllable and uncontrollable cancellations and delays, and so does the DOT. “A controllable flight cancellation or delay is essentially a delay or cancellation caused by the airline. Examples include: maintenance or crew problems; cabin cleaning; baggage loading; and fueling,” the website explains. Cancellations or delays due to weather or Air Traffic Control issues are considered uncontrollable. As you review the dashboard, keep in mind that it refers to controllable issues–you won’t be entitled to the same things if the cancellation or delay was uncontrollable.

For flights with controllable cancellations or delays, the dashboard looks at whether an airline will: rebook your flight at no extra charge; rebook you on another airline at no extra charge; provide a meal voucher for a delay of more than three hours; and provide a hotel stay, along with hotel transportation, if a delay or cancellation strands you overnight. Four airlines have committed to doing all of these things–American, Delta, JetBlue, and United. Hawaiian Airlines has made all those commitments in case of a cancellation, but may not rebook you on another airline in case of a delay.

At the other end of the spectrum, Allegiant Air has not made a single one of these commitments, and Frontier only promises to rebook you on one of its own flights and provide you with a meal voucher in the case of a long delay.

Next time you’re affected by a bad delay or cancellation, check out the dashboard so you can find out exactly what you’re entitled to and make sure to get it. Better yet, take a look at the dashboard before you book your next flight. This year is one of the worst years ever for flight cancellations and delays, so you might want to consider an airline’s commitments to its passengers before you commit to buying a ticket.