Fast Fixes: Flight Cancellations

Traveler Editor at Large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: My flight was canceled and the airline wants to put me on a later flight—as in the day after tomorrow. What now?

Chris’s Answer: You have more options than what the airline is offering.

One, you can ask for your money back. Airlines must give you a refund, whatever the reason for cancellation. (Never accept a voucher instead of a refund.)

But if you need to get somewhere, a refund might not be the best option either. When Spirit canceled Annika Sundin’s flight from New York to Miami, the model accepted the refund and bought a ticket to Miami on a different airline, but at a higher cost.

There’s a second option, and here’s where it helps to know a little airline lingo. Ask your ticket agent to “endorse” your ticket to another airline flying to your destination.

If there’s space available, the carrier might transfer you to another airline. But it isn’t required to, and the less you paid for the ticket, the less likely you are to get an endorsement.

Christopher Elliott is National Geographic Traveler’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue). Follow his story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

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