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Fourth of July Travelers May Face Headaches — UP’s Essential Tips in Case of Flight Disruptions

Brett Holzhauer's image
Brett Holzhauer
Brett Holzhauer's image

Brett Holzhauer

Content Contributor

51 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 22U.S. States Visited: 29

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he's had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards.
Edited by: Stella Shon
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Stella Shon

News Managing Editor

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With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in ...

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Travel in 2024 continues to break records, and the week of Independence Day looks to be much of the same. An estimated 5.74 million people — roughly the entire population of Minnesota — will be taking to the skies for the holiday, according to AAA

With that many people hitting the roads or heading to airports, it’s nearly guaranteed that some of the nearly 6 million fliers will hit rough spots in their travels. So, if you’re headed to the airport for this coming holiday, it’s important to have a residual plan if things go awry.

Here’s what’s on the horizon for our nation’s birthday, how each legacy airline handles potential hiccups, what protections may be available to you, and what you can do to prepare.

Busiest Travel Day of Summer 2024

Sunday, June 30, is anticipated to be the busiest travel day of the summer, with the Independence Day holiday just around the corner. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects that over 53,000 flights will take off on Sunday, June 30 alone. However, impending bad weather in various parts of the country might cause some traveler disruptions.

Zipair LAX NRT boarding gate 135
Travel is back. Image Credit: Ryan Smith

To mitigate these disruptions, federal officials and the FAA are collaborating closely with airlines and air traffic control at major airports to implement contingency plans. Their goal? Do what they can to proactively avoid passengers being stranded on the tarmac or taxiway. 

But despite their best efforts, some are likely to face turbulence and could face delays or other disruptions. 

What To Do If Your Flight is Delayed or Canceled

In recent years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working through consumer complaints regarding airlines and their arguably unfair practices regarding cancellations. Circumstances heated up after the Southwest Airlines meltdown in December 2022, leaving over 2 million passengers stranded, resulting in a $140 million fine.

Flyers are now guaranteed compensation for any snafus from any airline. Here’s what you need to know:

  • You’re due a full refund if your flight is canceled or significantly changed, as long as you don’t accept alternative transportation or travel credits. A significant change is considered more than 3 hours domestically and 6 hours internationally, a change in airports, or an increased number of connections.
  • If you pay for a checked bag, and it isn’t delivered within 12 hours of arrival on a domestic flight, or 15-30 hours of an international flight, you’ll be refunded the checked bag fee.
  • If you pay for Wi-Fi or in-flight entertainment, and it doesn’t work, you’re due a refund.

Airlines are mandated to issue refunds automatically, and it must be within 7 business days if purchased with a credit card, or 20 calendar days for other payment methods. Additionally, the refund must be in the original form of payment. So if you paid using airline miles, travel voucher or cash, you’re owed the same in return. The refund must be for the entire ticket price, including taxes and fees.

On top of these passenger rights, each airline also has made commitments to ensure you’re taken care of in the case of disruptions on their watch.  

How Airlines Are Handling Flight Disruptions

Regardless of the airline you’re flying, your first step is to have the airline’s app downloaded. Most airlines will share timely updates directly on the app, sometimes even before it’s announced at the gate.

Moreover, airlines like United are now going one step further by allowing you to make flight adjustments directly from the app (such as moving to a different flight or connecting city), eliminating the need to wait in long lines at the airport. 

Unfortunately, regardless of how prepared you may be, you may find yourself delayed or canceled no matter what. If this happens, each major carrier has committed to taking care of its passengers. The chart below outlines what to expect from each airline, according to the DOT.

Department of Transportion Airlines
Make sure you know your rights. Image Credit: DOT

Knowing what to expect from each airline can help you navigate potential disruptions and get you to your destination as soon as possible. 

How To Prepare for Upcoming Holiday Travel

With so many flights this weekend and unpredictable weather, some of you will end up canceled or delayed regardless. However, there are things you can do prior to flying (whether for the holiday or any other time) to make disruptions easier to stomach. 

Check Your Credit Card For Travel Insurance

If you use a credit card to book your trip, you may have complimentary travel insurance for your trip. These coverages will protect you in case things go awry. However, to be eligible, you must charge all of your trip expenses using that same card.

To find out if the card you’re using includes travel insurance, go to your customer portal and find the benefits section. Look for phrases like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, trip delay reimbursement, or baggage delay insurance. Any of these can help cover expenses you may incur because of a travel hiccup, including food purchased during a long flight delay, damage to a rental car, or even clothes purchased if your bags are lost.

Hot Tip:

Each credit card issuer has varying timelines for filing a claim, but it’s best practice to file a claim as soon as possible. Additionally, if you think you will need to file a claim, save all of your receipts and documentation for your claim submission.

Additional Travel Insurance May Be Worth It

If you didn’t book your trip with a credit card or travel insurance, don’t fret. You can purchase a supplementary travel insurance policy leading up to your trip. This is an additional insurance plan that you can purchase to enhance your primary travel insurance coverage. It typically covers expenses and scenarios not included in standard policies, like trip cancellations, interruptions due to unforeseen circumstances, medical emergencies, lost or delayed baggage, and emergency evacuation. 

You can purchase a policy like this for a single trip, or buy a long-term policy that covers travel within a specific period of time.

These policies range in price depending on how long your trip is, the price of it, and where you’re going. If you’re not booking with a travel credit card that has the protection, these policies are a good backup plan to have in place. 

Final Thoughts

Holiday weekends are typically more susceptible to travel issues. Add in potential thunderstorms, rain, and heat waves, and a struggling airline industry – it could make for a tough weekend for many travelers.

Be prepared before you head to the airport and enjoy all the hot dogs and fireworks along the way.

Brett Holzhauer's image

About Brett Holzhauer

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he’s had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards. He learned the tricks of the trade from his mom, and has taken many steps forward. He wasn’t exposed to much travel as a kid, but now has a goal of reaching 100 countries in his life. In 2019, he sold all of his possessions to become a digital nomad, and he says it was one of the best decisions he ever made. He plans to do it again at some point in his life.

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