It’s 8pm on the evening of August 1. I turn on my laptop and go online to check the status of my flight from Toronto to Helsinki departing the very next day. I browse to the Finnair website and to my horror my itinerary has the word cancelled next to it. I immediately go into panic mode. With a dropped jaw and sweaty palms, my hot head pops up from my warm pillow in a heart-pounding state of emergency and then it suddenly dawns on me, it was all just a dream. A numbing and scary nightmare.
Lately, there has been much in the news on stranded airline passengers due to the France airport strike. Fortunately for me, I have never been affected by an airline strike and none of my flights have ever been cancelled. However, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if my upcoming flight to Helsinki got cancelled. Therefore, I’ve decided to find the answers to five of the most common questions on this subject.
Can I get a refund if the airline cancels my flight?
In situations where there is an act of God, Canadian airlines refute any responsibility for paid accommodations for their passengers. After reading through the Code of Conduct of Canada’s Airlines from Flight Rights Canada I can confirm that indeed the airlines are not responsible for acts of nature or the acts of third parties.
“Nothing in Flight Rights Canada would make the airline responsible for acts of nature or the acts of third parties. Airlines are legally obligated to maintain the highest standards of aviation safety and cannot be encouraged to fly when it is not safe to do so. Similarly, airlines cannot be held responsible for inclement weather…”
The above also applies if you are departing from the United States; they do not enforce any minimum compensation for the aggravation. The European Union, however, does need its airlines to pay compensation and give meals or even hotel rooms for cancellations or delays exceeding two hours – another reason I envy Europeans. The rule applies to all flights departing from European Union countries.
Can I cancel my accommodation?
If you’ve made reservations directly with a hotel, hostel, or any other type of accommodation then you are responsible for any cancellation. Most cancellation policies vary by establishment, by season and by rate offered. In most cases you can cancel your reservations and still get a refund if done two days before arrival. Unfortunately, if you don’t cancel within at least 48 hours you will have to do your best to argue your case to get a refund. If they can’t offer you a refund at least try to make a new booking for a later date.
Will my travel insurance cover me for my accommodations and expenses?
This depends completely on your policy. Many insurance companies deal with claims on a case-by-case basis, and will not pay any costs that should be covered by the airline. I recommend calling your insurance provider and having them go through the policy with you. It could be that your policy pays a certain amount for long delays. There are some policies that cover for “substantial loss”, such as a hotel reservation made independently. Again, check your terms and conditions directly with your insurer.
What should I do if I’m stranded in a foreign country?
First and foremost, contact your airline. Depending on your country of residence you may be entitled to a refund or an alternative flight, but may have to claim food and accommodation from your travel insurance. For example, if you are traveling into the European Union with an European airline then the airline is responsible for food and lodging. Another important point is to always ask and keep receipts, regardless of compensation. You can then attach these receipts to your insurance claim and should be given a refund.
I am due to fly in the next day or two; can I cancel my flight?
In this scenario you’re the one canceling your flight. It may be for a valid reason but the answer to this one is a tough one to swallow. The only type of airline ticket you can cancel is a flexible or refundable ticket. Otherwise, you will not get any money back. There are a few travel agencies that will allow you to pay a surcharge to allow you to cancel your flight should any emergency arise. One of these is itravel2000.com
If your flight gets cancelled try not to panic. Remember that there are worse things that can happen. If you stay calm and call your airline you are very likely to get help, even if it’s not monetary. Additionally, try not to travel during heavy storms or to areas prone to bad weather, as this will increase the likelihood of getting your flight cancelled. Also, when possible purchase travel insurance. This may sound like an unnecessary expense but it’s always best to travel insured, if something unpredictable happens.
What would you do if your flight got cancelled?