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How to Deal with a Flight Cancellation

Find out if you have any recourse if your flight gets canceled or you get bumped.


  • Step 1: Know your rights Know your rights before booking a flight. Visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection web site for information aimed at consumers with cancelled or overbooked flights.
  • Step 2: Visit airline web site Visit your airline’s web site and find their ticketing contract information before buying your ticket. Read their policies regarding cancellations and overbooking.
  • Step 3: Call airline to rebook If your flight gets canceled and you're already at the airport, call your airline to rebook. This may shortcut long lines at the ticket counter.
  • TIP: Most major airlines have computer programs that quickly rebook your flight.
  • Step 4: Call other airlines Call other airlines to find an alternative flight. Make sure they will honor your cancelled flight’s ticket.
  • TIP: No federal laws require airlines to compensate passengers whose flights have been cancelled.
  • Step 5: Seek compensation if bumped Seek financial reimbursement or ticket vouchers as compensation if you’re bumped from an overbooked flight. Be sure to ask about expiration dates and other restrictions.
  • TIP: No compensation is required if the airline arranges another flight within one hour of bumped passenger’s original scheduled arrival time.
  • Step 6: Seek compensation if the airline goes out of business Seek compensation if the airline goes out of business. Contact your credit card issuer to remove flight charges under the FTC’s Fair Credit Billing Act.
  • FACT: In 2008, 63,612 passengers were bumped off overbooked flights on U.S. airlines.

You Will Need

  • Knowledge of rights
  • Internet access
  • Bargaining skills
  • Cell phone
  • Credit cards

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