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No, airlines are not required by law to pay for hotels and meals if your flight is cancelled.

Many airlines will pay for hotels and meals if a flight is cancelled, but they are not required by law to do so.

Thousands of vacationers were stranded in late December by a wave of canceled flights, most of which were Southwest Airlines.

Since then, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pushed for Southwest to provide “adequate compensation” to its passengers, including for missed flights, hotels and meals due to the cancellation.

It left a lot people online I wonder what they are entitled to if their flight is cancelled. one person announced on twitter Dec. 27 that Southwest is required by law to provide room and board vouchers.

QUESTION

Are airlines required by law to pay for hotel accommodation and meals when your flight is cancelled?

SOURCES

ANSWER

No, airlines are not required by law to pay for hotel accommodation and meals if your flight is cancelled, but many airlines have rules that allow you to do so under certain circumstances.

WHAT WE FOUND

Airlines are regulated by the federal Department of Transportation (DOT). There is no federal law requiring airlines to cover the cost of your hotel and meals in the event of a flight cancellation, CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg told VERIFY.

DOT also states on its website that “airlines are not required to provide passengers with money or other compensation for expenses beyond the canceled ticket and fees associated directly with the ticket (such as baggage fees, seat upgrades, etc.). .). ) in the event of flight cancellations.

More from CHECK: Yes, you can get a refund if your flight is canceled and you choose not to travel.

However, some airlines will pay for hotel stays, refund expenses, or offer vouchers for room and board.

Individual airlines have their own rules governing what they will do in the event of a flight cancellation, including whether they will cover hotel and food costs. DOT recommends asking employees if the airline will pay for meals or a hotel room, but notes that some airlines “do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers.”

Many airlines specify in their customer service plans or travel contracts, which is a legal agreement between an airline and its passengers, that they will pay for hotel stays through vouchers, refunds, or other means.

Airlines usually provide these services if the flight cancellation is within their control.

That could refer to situations where an airline didn’t have enough crew members to operate a flight, the plane had a mechanical problem or didn’t show up at all, or there were technical issues, Greenberg said.

“If there is a weather situation, it takes them off the hook,” Greenberg said.

Here’s a breakdown of the room and board reimbursement policies for major US airlines, including Southwest.

Southwest passengers affected by a canceled or significant flight delay between December 24, 2022 and January 2, 2023 can “submit receipts for review” if they have incurred additional costs for hotel, meals, and more. Receipts can be submitted via email or on the Southwest website.

“We will comply with reasonable requests for reimbursement for food, hotel accommodation and alternative transportation,” the airline’s website states.

The obligation to provide accommodation in the event of a delayed or canceled flight under the control of an airline is also included in Southwest’s customer service plan.

If a hotel does not provide a shuttle service, Southwest states that it will offer a voucher or grant reasonable requests for reimbursement of travel expenses.

The airline also says in its customer service plan that it will provide meal vouchers during delays or cancellations of flights under its control, resulting in wait times of at least three hours. If vouchers or participating providers are not available, Southwest states that it will honor reasonable food reimbursement requests.

If your Delta flight is canceled or delayed by more than four hours from 10 pm to 6 am, the airline will provide you with a voucher for one night at a hotel “if overnight accommodation is available at Delta contracted properties”, in accordance with her contract. transportation.

Delta will also provide free transportation if the hotel does not offer it.

If hotel accommodation is not available, Delta says it will provide you with a travel voucher equal to the value of the hotel contract, up to $100.

However, Delta states that it will not be responsible for your expenses if the flight cancellation was caused by “force majeure”, which the airline defines as:

  • Weather conditions or natural disasters;
  • riots, civil disturbances, embargoes, war, hostilities or international unsettled conditions;
  • Strikes, work stoppages, work slowdowns, lockouts or any other labor dispute;
  • Government regulation, requirement, directive or requirement;
  • Lack of labor, fuel or equipment; or
  • Any other condition beyond Delta’s control, or any other fact that Delta could not reasonably foresee.

United Airlines states in its contract of carriage that it will also provide overnight accommodation or e-Travel Certificate compensation if a flight is delayed or canceled for more than four hours from 10 pm to 6 am.

The airline also says it will provide snacks and/or food and drink vouchers in the event of a significant delay caused by United Airlines.

American Airlines will arrange overnight stays or cover the cost of an approved hotel, if available, if your flight is delayed or rerouted to another city and does not arrive for boarding by 11:59 pm on the scheduled arrival day.

“We do not guarantee hotel refunds if you book directly without written approval from American Airlines,” the airline’s contract of carriage states.

According to the American, if the delay does not depend on the airline, passengers must pay for hotel accommodation, meals and other expenses.

An airline defines events beyond its control as:

  • Meteorological or weather conditions
  • Civil unrest, including war, embargo or unsettled international conditions (real or threatening)
  • Acts of terror
  • Public health emergencies of domestic or international concern
  • Labor disputes related to or affecting our services
  • Government regulations or requirements
  • Lack of manpower, fuel, or funds from American or other
  • Any fact not reasonably foreseen or predicted by the American

If your flight to Alaska is canceled in a city that is at least 100 miles from your home, the airline will provide one night’s hotel accommodation, if available, and transportation to the hotel in accordance with the contract of carriage.

If hotel accommodation is not available, you can also request a one-night refund in the form of an e-certificate for future trips to Alaska.

These conditions will only be granted if the delay is expected to be more than four hours between 10 pm and 6 am, the airline said.

Alaska states that it will not be liable “for any failure or delay in operating any flight, with or without notice, for reasons of safety or, when appropriate, in its sole discretion, due to force majeure or any event, which was not reasonably foreseen, expected or predicted by Alaska.”

Spirit Airlines states in its contract of carriage that it “is not responsible for personal or business expenses incurred by a guest as a result of a flight cancellation or rescheduling.”

But the airline says it will provide overnight accommodation or reimburse you for a reasonable cost of living “in the event of a controlled cancellation or long controlled flight delay after the scheduled departure date.”

In the event of a delay of more than three hours or a cancellation that is under the control of the airline, Spirit says it will also provide a meal voucher that can be used wherever accepted.

“However, if the cancellation or misconnection is due to bad weather, air traffic control decisions, or other issues or causes beyond Spirit’s control, we do not offer such terms,” ​​the airline said in a statement.

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