How to get refunds for canceled flights

A massive storm has triggered widespread flight cancellations, including at Southwest Airlines, which has canceled more than 15,000 flights since last week, stranding crowds of customers during the peak holiday season.

The problems continued for passengers on Thursday, when Southwest canceled about 2,300 flights, or 58% of its scheduled flights that day, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. But the company said in a statement that it plans to resume “normal operations with minimal disruption” on Friday.

After a flight cancellation, airlines are usually willing to rebook passengers on the next available flight. Since flights are rare and some airlines are overwhelmed, customers may prefer a refund.

Any potential refunds are dependent on a passenger’s communication with the airline, Clint Henderson, news editor at The Points Guy, told ABC News.

“Be your best advocate,” he said. “You really have to go directly to the airline – there’s no third party doing that for you.”

Here’s how to get a refund if your flight has been cancelled:

Request a cash refund for the ticket

If an airline cancels a flight and a customer decides they don’t want to book another flight, the customer is entitled to a full refund under the law, according to the Department of Transport. This requirement applies regardless of the reason for the flight cancellation, the agency said.

In such a circumstance, the customer can request the refund directly from the airline, Henderson said.

“A lot of times the airlines will try to give you a voucher, but you’re entitled to cash back,” he said.

Get reimbursed for food, accommodation and other expenses

In light of the holiday disruption that has stranded many customers, Southwest Airlines is committed to “honouring reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel and alternative transportation,” the company said.

The non-flight expense reimbursement offer is only for customers who experienced a cancellation or “significant delay” between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, Southwest Airlines said.

It’s unclear exactly what costs Southwest Airlines will cover. Before affected customers incur significant costs, they should note that “there’s a lot of wiggle room in the word ‘reasonable,'” Henderson said.

PHOTO: Kelli Jones leans against Florida's James Heyburn as they wait for a rental car to be ready after their flight with Southwest Airlines was canceled at Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee on December 27 2022.

Kelli Jones leans against Florida’s James Heyburn as the two wait for a rental car to be ready after their Southwest Airlines flight was canceled at Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee on December 27, 2022.

Nicole Hester/USA Today Network via Reuters

Ultimately, Southwest Airlines will reimburse customers for food, travel and accommodation costs, even if they exceed regular fares, Henderson predicted, as the company wants to restore its reputation and respond to criticism from elected officials.

“I think they will do even if you spend $1,000 on a last minute flight or rent a car for $300 a day or hotel prices at the airport have jumped dramatically and you spend $500 a night on a hotel,” he said.

Send receipts to the airline as soon as possible

Southwest Airlines has released a webpage where customers can submit receipts for expenses resulting from travel disruptions during the holidays.

The company, however, warned that refunds could take longer due to the severity of the current issues.

“As our goal remains to stabilize and restart our operations, which we are seeing very positive signs of, our teams will then take over processing the requests. This will take some time given the scale,” Southwest Airlines told ABC. News. .

In turn, customers can speed up the process as much as possible by submitting receipts to the company soon after the relevant purchases.

Henderson said he’s not sure how long refunds will take, but customers shouldn’t expect them anytime soon.

“Usually this kind of thing takes weeks and weeks, even months,” he said. “I don’t think there will be a quick turnaround.”

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