Action 9: Your rights when you fly

CHARLOTTE — Canceled flights caused headaches for thousands of travelers over the holidays. And then just last week, a Federal Aviation Administration internal system malfunctioned, triggering a nationwide ground stop for the first time since 9/11.

But no matter what airline you fly or the reason your travel plans change, Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke wants to make sure you know your rights. Here’s what you should know.


  • If the airline cancels your flight, it has to give your money back. It’s as simple as that. That includes all the fees that went with it, like baggage.
  • If the airline doesn’t cancel but there’s a significant change or delay, you’re entitled to a refund as well. Unfortunately, what is or isn’t “significant” is a gray area.
  • If the airline switches your seat to a lower class section than you paid for without you agreeing to it, the airline owes you the difference in price.
  • Obviously, if you cancel your flight, you get money back if you bought a “refundable” ticket. If not, you don’t.


  • Start with the airline.
  • If you bought your ticket through a third-party website or a travel agent, start there instead.
  • If you used credit card: whoever sold you your ticket must process it within seven business days. If cash or check: 20 business days.


  • If your flight is canceled or delayed and you pay for a rental car, hotel, or extra meals out of your own pocket, the airline does not have to reimburse you. But it’s good PR if it does, so ask for the money (or at least a credit or voucher).
  • For the most part, you’re not entitled a refund because of bad service.


Travel insurance can be a big help. Just make sure you know what’s covered and -- maybe more importantly -- what’s not.

  • It usually covers if you get sick, have an emergency or jury duty, or some vendor cancels on you.
  • It doesn’t cover if you just get cold feet, but there is a policy that does. It’s called “Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR).” Many CFAR policies even cover pandemics, while standard ones don’t. But remember, they usually cost more than regular travel insurance (about 40% more) and only get you about 50-75% back.
  • Always research the insurance company and policy before you buy. They’re not all the same, so shop around.

(WATCH BELOW: Where CLT lands among best airports in the world for on-time flights)

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