Immanuel Ike’s trip home for Christmas ended before he even made it to airport security.
The 29-year-old was planning to fly Thursday from Chicago, where he lives, to his hometown, Houston, with Southwest Airlines. The flight had already been delayed an hour, but just after walking inside the terminal at O’Hare International Airport, he got a notification from the airline that his flight had been canceled amid a major winter storm moving through the central and eastern U.S.
The mechanical engineer called the airline, which rebooked him on a Friday flight, then turned around and went home. The experience left him frustrated and unsure about his new flight’s prospects.
“I really do want to be back home for Christmas, so I’m just staying positive right now that I’ll be able to get a flight (Friday),” Ike told USA TODAY.
Ike is hardly in this alone as the U.S. saw another day of significant flight disruptions. After high numbers on Thursday, more than 4,100 U.S. flights were canceled and 4,300 more were delayed Friday shortly after noon ET, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.
About 40% of all flights out of Seattle-Tacoma International and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airports had been canceled by midday Friday. Southwest Airlines’ schedule has been affected the most, with nearly 900 flights taken off the schedule for the day.
The storm system was on track to continue pushing east Friday, and airlines have issued waivers in much of the Midwest, Northeast and even parts of the South for some carriers.
Here’s what you need to know about what airlines are offering and what you’re entitled to if your flight gets canceled.
Flight delayed or canceled? What you need to know and what airlines owe travelers.
If your flight is delayed:You may be eligible for compensation from your airline
What am I entitled to if my flight is delayed or canceled?
The Department of Transportation requires all airlines to refund your ticket even if you purchased a nonrefundable fare in the event that your flight is canceled.
Rules around delays are a little more convoluted, and every airline’s policy is slightly different. The DOT has a dashboard for travelers to see what they’re entitled to by carrier.
Oftentimes, airlines don’t compensate for weather-related delays because those are seen as outside the carrier’s control.
My flight was canceled: How I got most of my costs covered (after 3 months)
Airline weather waivers
Although airlines may not offer compensation for many weather delays, they do preemptively try to give travelers more flexibility ahead of expected severe weather.
Many airlines are offering passengers in many regions of the country the option to adjust their trips to travel after the storm passes. Here’s an overview:
- American Airlines: Passengers booked on existing tickets to travel to, from or through parts of the Midwest, Northeast and along the East Coast through Dec. 25 can push their plans to as late as Dec. 30 in the Northeast or Jan. 1 in the Midwest and East Coast without paying change fees. Passengers traveling in parts of the Pacific Northwest through Dec. 23 can also push their travel as late as Dec. 26.
- Delta Air Lines: The airline has issued multiple waivers covering travel through Dec. 25 in certain regions. Depending on which airports are included in the original itinerary, travelers may be able to change their ticket to fly as late as Dec. 28 without paying fare differences. Delta does not charge change fees, except on basic economy tickets.
- United Airlines: Travelers in much of the country through Dec. 25 have the option to move their plans as late as Dec. 28 or 30, depending on the region, without paying a change fee or fare difference. Exact waiver applicability dates and locations vary by region. Those traveling in parts of the central or northwestern U.S. through Dec. 23 can also push their travel as late as Dec. 28.
- Southwest Airlines: Many travelers have the opportunity to change their tickets for travel through Dec. 26 throughout the Rockies, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Northeast and parts of the South without needing to pay a fare difference. The airline does not charge change fees.
- Spirit Airlines: Passengers traveling to, from or through many airports in the Midwest through Dec. 23 and Northeast through Dec. 24 can move their flights to Dec. 28 or sooner without paying a fare difference or change fee.
- Frontier Airlines: Travelers scheduled to fly through Dec. 24 to, from or through certain airports in the Northeast, Midwest, and South can change their travel dates without paying a change fee.
- Alaska Airlines: The airline is allowing travelers booked to fly through Dec. 23 in the Midwest and Dec. 25 in the Northeast to push their departures to as late as Dec. 29 without paying a change fee or fare difference. Travelers flying through Dec. 23 in Seattle and Portland can also push their flights as late as Dec. 28. The airline is also allowing passengers with nonrefundable tickets in those timeframes to cancel their trips and receive credit for future travel.
- JetBlue: Many passengers traveling in the Midwest through Dec. 23 or Northeast through Dec. 24 can move their trip to Dec. 25 or 28 respectively (or sooner) without paying a change fee or fare difference.