Here is a primer on what your airline policy may look like if your flight is cancelled (check with the airline you are flying with as not all of these possibilities will necessarily apply):
- Flexible changes to tickets - may be worded along the lines of being able to move your entire itinerary up to seven days before or after the originally scheduled date.
- Changing your ticket completely - you may be able to apply the full value of your unused ticket toward the purchase of a ticket to a different destination.
- Change ticket without penalties - usually at least a one time change without fees is permitted, following the same itinerary.
- Refunds and partial refunds - with really bad weather, where flight schedules are affected by days rather than hours, airlines may offer to refund your unused ticket and sometimes even the unused portion of your ticket if you have begun travel.
- No hotel or transport - weather related cancellations exempt the airline from compensating passengers. Inclement weather is considered a force majeure or an act of god, and airlines are not required to pay for food / transport / lodging. Exceptions are sometimes made, but should not be expected.
A few tips for dealing with weather related cancellations:
- Call ahead or check online before you go to the airport. If the roads are treacherous, the runways will be too.
- If you are at the airport when your flight cancels, you can line up to see a gate agent or at the ticket counter, but this may take a really long time. The gate agent may send you to the ticket counter anyhow, or may be required to leave and go to the next flight.
- If you are at the airport when your flight cancels call the reservations department immediately. They are the best chance at getting something rebooked for you.
- If you are at the airport when your flight cancels check both departure and arrival screens. Chances are if flights later than yours are not operating, a later rebooked flight on the same day may end up cancelling. Checking the arrival board will give you an idea of whether enough airplanes are coming in to actually turn around and operate as another flight.
- If you are at the airport when your flight cancels, and you are a connecting passenger, ask the gate agent if you should head to the ticket counter or if there is a desk for connecting passengers. Although not obligated, many airlines will take care of passengers who are in transit, particularly if the weather delays/cancellations were not foreseen or advised of when you began your journey.
- Checking the weather at your destination may give you an indication of whether a flight can even fly.