Travel in the omicron surge: What airlines owe you if they cancel your flight

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  • Airlines have canceled more than 10,000 flights over the year-end holidays as the Omicron version of the coronavirus spread among crew.
  • If the carrier cancels the flight and the customer decides not to take an alternate flight, they will have to refund the passengers money.

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The trip in 2021 ended on a tense note thanks to thousands of thanks to Omicron. The fast-spreading coronavirus variant has raised infection rates across the world, including for airline employees.

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American Airlines has canceled more than 10,000 flights during the year-end holiday period, as isolated pilots and flight attendants and inclement weather affected hubs such as Seattle and Atlanta. Thousands more flights were delayed.

According to flight-tracking site FlightAware, that’s a small percentage of the total schedule – about 5%, but it has disrupted the plans of thousands of passengers in what airline officials described to be the busiest times since the pandemic began. had guessed. Since December 23, more than 15.6 million people have passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at airports, nearly double the number from a year ago.

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In contrast to the slowdowns in Spirit, American and Southwest in the summer and fall, recent disruptions have engulfed several airlines, including Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska and SkyWest.

Here’s what to know:


If your airline cancels your flight and you choose not to take an alternate flight, they pay you a refund under federal law. Airlines may offer credit with the airline, but passengers may ask for a full refund. This is the case regardless of the reason for the cancellation: bad weather, employee problems or other issues, according to the Department of Transportation.

“You can always get your money back if they can’t accommodate you, but it doesn’t get you home,” said Brett Snyder, who runs a travel concierge service and freak flier travel website.

The DoT also says that refunds are owed to passengers if their flight is significantly delayed, though it does not define what falls under that category.

“Whether you are entitled to a refund depends on several factors – including the length of the delay, the length of the flight and your particular circumstances,” it says on its website. “The DOT determines whether you are entitled to a refund after significant delays on a case-by-case basis.”


Airlines try to cancel flights long before passengers arrive at the airport so that passengers can make alternative plans, preferably through self-service platforms on their apps or websites, and not overwhelm ticket counters. JetBlue, for example, is trimming about 1,280 flights from its schedule, though January 13, ahead of an expected increase in the number of Omicron infections among employees.

“The worst kind of cancellation, as we all know, is the cancellation that happens at the airport,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told CNBC on Thursday.

Hold times on airline customer service phone lines can sometimes be hours during periods of disruption, although some carriers, such as Delta, will call you back when it is your turn. Airlines also offer chat services and often respond on Twitter.

Snyder recommends trying out all available channels while you have a backup.

passenger canceled

With the outbreak of Omicron, some travelers may choose to postpone travel or test positive and be unable to reach their destinations while traveling abroad. Several countries have tightened travel restrictions since the Omicron version was revealed in late November. For example, the United States now requires all inbound travelers, including US citizens, to test negative for COVID within one day of departure.

The State Department on Thursday warned US citizens about international travel, as testing positive in another country could mean travelers would have to quarantine abroad at their own expense, unless they test negative.

“Foreign governments in any country may impose sanctions without notice,” the State Department said.

Large US airlines such as Delta, United and American have removed hefty change fees for standard economy tickets and above for both international and domestic flights. Passengers are still responsible for any difference in fares. Airlines have largely eliminated pandemic-era fee waivers for non-refundable basic economy tickets, but travelers should check with their specific airline.


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