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Your flight has been delayed or canceled—here's how you can get money for your time | FOX43 Finds Out

Thousands of travelers have been stranded at airports this summer and experts don't expect the situation to improve soon. FOX43 Finds Out explains your rights.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Almost every week we're reporting about "massive flight delays and cancellations" around the country. 

It's annoying and frustrating. 

FOX43 finds out that if you buy a ticket, you have rights and can cash in on a delay. 

All packed and no way to get there. Americans have been stranded at airports in droves over the past couple of weekends.

Experts believe it's only going to get worse throughout the summer.

Willis Orlando from Scott's Cheap Flights says our local airports are fairing pretty well compared to other parts of the country. He says locally, BWI has the highest rate of delayed flights this week at around 15%. 

Philidelphia International Airport has between an 8-10% delay rate, while Harrisburg International Airport has barely seen any delays at about 4%.

But Orlando said if you have a connecting flight or want to actually get home, that could be a different story.

"If you are flying out of a smaller airport, you have fewer backup options," he said.

What rights do I have if my flight is delayed and is there any point in the delay that I am entitled to compensation? 

"If you have a flight that is delayed significantly or canceled and you chose not to fly, you are immediately owed a full cash refund, full stop," Orlando said. "Airlines will try to offer you a voucher, tell them you know your rights, and ask for that refund."

That "significant" delay can vary from airline to airline, though.

For instance, Scotts Cheap Flights found United Airlines believes one hour or more from your original flight time is considered significant, while American airlines may not offer anything until you've been delayed at least four hours.

Here are the TSA rules for delays and cancelations and for getting bumped from a flight.

But remember, you only get that cash if you decide NOT to fly.

"If you decide you're flying, you lose all your leverage," Orlando said. "But if you threaten to walk away, that's when you use your leverage. Always have that in your back pocket. You don't need to actually want to walk away, you might want to take that flight no matter what, but you can use that leverage to your advantage."

You can ask to be booked on another flight with another airline, a hotel stay, a first-class ticket on another flight, and the list goes on.

Orlando says when a flight is overbooked and they ask if you're willing to be bumped, volunteer right away. 

"Run to the counter, be the first one up there and say 'I volunteer, but I'm not going to take your first offer, I'm going to take whatever you offer the last person off the plane,'" Orlando said. "Because as you get closer to flight time, the airlines offer more and more money and other perks."

Here's how much money you could make getting bumped from a flight

That's when you can make some real money, in some cases more than $1,500. 

Here's a breakdown from Scott's Cheap Flights:

For domestic flights:

  • For 0-1 hour delay, no compensation 
  • For 1-2 hours delay, 2x the one-way fare (up to $775) 
  • For 2+ hours delay, 4x the one-way fare (up to $1,550) 

For international flights:

  • For 0-1 hour delay, no compensation 
  • For 1-4 hours delay, 2x the one-way fare (up to $775) 
  • For 4+ hours delay, 4x the one-way fare (up to $1,550) 

Obviously, that won't work if you're traveling in a big group or with kids. 

Orlando thinks the bottom line is this: If you're taking a flight this summer, know your airline's policies and research a backup plan, just in case. 

"Help them, help you," he said. "So if you are intent on traveling, let them know you're willing to walk away and take that money or say 'Book me on this flight. I found this flight. Can you put me on this flight and hook me up?'

"Oftentimes, they'll say 'absolutely,' rather than giving you your money back."

If you can, try not to book anything that's non-refundable on the day you arrive at your destination and the same on the way home. 

If you do end up opting for a refund, Orlando says major airlines will give that to you in about 7-10 business days. 

Although, he said, you'll likely be on the phone or online for a few hours to get actually get to that point. 

If you have a story you want Jackie De Tore to look into, FOX43 wants to find out. Send her a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com.

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