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A Comprehensive Guide to Flight Delay Compensation and What You Need to Know

Encountering flight delays or cancellations can prove to be a significant inconvenience, yet gaining insights into your entitlements and possible reimbursement can alleviate the frustration. Familiarizing yourself with flight delay compensation and safeguards becomes crucial, especially when grappling with airline cancellations. To facilitate your understanding, explore the pertinent information on these matters along with useful budget templates for comprehensive financial planning.

Entitlements for Delayed Flights:


  • U.S. airlines commit to rebooking passengers on a later flight with no additional cost for controllable cancellations.
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations are provided by every airline except Frontier for overnight cancellations.

Compensation by Airline:

  • Each airline has specific commitments for controllable cancellations.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation or DOT provides a table outlining commitments broken down by airline.

Identifying the Reason for Delays:

Reasons for Delay:

  • Understanding the reason for the delay is crucial in determining eligibility for compensation.
  • Airlines may communicate delay reasons, but it’s recommended to gather proof for potential future use.

Tools for Finding Delay Reasons:

  • Some airlines, like United, specify delay reasons in their apps.
  • Services like ExpertFlyer may be used for other airlines to find official reasons for delays or cancellations.

Types of Delay Compensation:

Controllable Delays:

  • Maintenance delays, crew scheduling issues, fuel or baggage problems, and cabin cleaning delays are considered controllable by the airline.
  • Compensation may include rebooking, meals, and hotel accommodations.

Non-Compensable Delays:

  • Delays due to factors outside the airline’s control, such as air traffic issues, safety/security events, infrastructure problems, or “acts of God.”
  • Airlines might not provide compensation for delays caused by these factors.

Compensation Variances Among Airlines:

Rebooking on Another Airline:

  • Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United commit to rebooking on partner airlines for extended delays.
  • Allegiant, Frontier, Hawaiian, Southwest, and Spirit do not guarantee rebooking on another airline.


  • Most major U.S. airlines provide meals or meal vouchers for delays of three or more hours. Allegiant is an exception.


  • Almost all major airlines offer hotel accommodations for overnight delays, except Frontier.
  • Spirit provides lodging but does not commit to complimentary ground transportation.

After Airline Cancellations:

  • Compensation for cancellations is generally similar to controllable delays.
  • Hawaiian Airlines rebooks on a partner flight for controllable cancellations but not for delays.
  • Credit card perks, such as trip delay insurance, can offer additional protection.


Understanding the reasons for flight delays, knowing airline commitments, and exploring credit card perks or travel insurance can enhance your ability to navigate and potentially receive compensation for disruptions. Travelers are encouraged to be aware of their rights and options when facing flight delays or cancellations.

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