(NewsNation) — Winter weather is hitting the U.S. hard just as people are traveling home for the holidays, and flights are already being canceled.
So what do you do when you find out your flight home is no longer an option?
First, try booking a different flight to your destination, though that may mean adjusting your plans. If you think you might be impacted, it’s also worth looking ahead to see if the airline has already issued a travel waiver. Those allow you to rebook in the same flight class without any additional fees that might usually be charged when changing plans.
With so many travelers being impacted, it’s also critical to book your new ticket quickly since you’ll be competing for seats. Melanie Lieberman, global features editor with the Points Guy, said that means using any tools you can and thinking about alternate options ahead of time.
“So, we want people to act fast and know exactly what their options are — alternative flights, alternative airports and get onto that standby list or get rebooked as quickly as possible,” she said.
If your flight is canceled and you don’t (or can’t) rebook, you are entitled to a refund. Airlines may offer credits or travel vouchers instead of cash. But you do have the right to ask for a cash refund, and if the airline tries to refuse, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.
Avoid Third Party Bookings
If you’ve already booked your flight through an online travel agency, you may have to go through that same agency to make any changes. Try to book your flights with the airline directly to give yourself more flexibility when negotiating changes and compensation due to weather-related cancelations.
Beware of Scammers
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers are another reason to avoid third-party booking sites and to deal directly with airlines. The Better Business Bureau has reported an increase in scams in which people find airline tickets for great prices only to get a call telling them there will be additional charges.
Fake cancellation scams are common, too, with scammers charging a fee to rebook a flight that wasn’t ever canceled in the first place. You can check flight status at sites such as Flight Aware or with your airline directly to make sure you’re getting the correct information.
While airlines are required to compensate you for a canceled flight, if your flight is delayed, they are only obligated to book you on another flight to your destination. If your flight is significantly delayed, however, you are entitled to a refund.
The U.S. Department of Transportation does not define what constitutes a “significant delay,” but it says it “depends on many factors – including the length of the delay, the length of the flight, and your particular circumstances” and is determined “on a case-by-case basis.”