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No, this is not a duplicate. Yes, I've already seen this question.


Consider a scenario where I book a round-trip ticket and the return flight is cancelled.

My questions are the following:

(a) Which of the following options would a typical US airline be required to provide me with?

  1. Refund my entire ticket and otherwise leave me "stranded".

  2. Refund only a portion of my ticket (and otherwise leave me "stranded").

  3. Provide me with alternate transportation back home at no extra cost.

  4. (any other options not listed?)

(b) Would the answer to the above be any different for a case where the return portion consists of multiple connecting flights, and one of the flights other than the first is cancelled?
(i.e., if I've already embarked on the return journey, is that different from not having yet done so?)

(c) Would the answer be different if I was combining one-way tickets in lieu of a round-trip ticket?
(i.e., do round-trip tickets have an advantage in the case where part of the return leg is cancelled?)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Sep 28 '17 at 8:20
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If cancelation isn't due to force majeure, then:

(a) Provide you with alternate transportation back home at no extra cost.
They can't leave you stranded, even if flying you home coats the twice what you have paid.

(b) Same thing - they're required to bring you home.
They don't have to use the same stops, or any stops.

(c) They may offer alternative transportation or your money back.
They're not required to bring you home. As far as the airline is concerned, you are home. If they cancel your trip, they owe you no more than what you have paid.

  • +1 thanks! So it seems that this is one of the benefits of booking round-trip? Also, can I ask how it changes if it is due to force majeure? – Mehrdad Sep 27 '17 at 21:14
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    If you read the contract of carriage for US airlines (and EU or other national rules don't apply), they pretty much can leave you stranded if they really want to. United, for instance, can declare a schedule change or cancellation and give you a travel voucher or partial refund. That's not generally what they will do, but it is what their contract allows. – Zach Lipton Sep 27 '17 at 21:33
  • Yeah, @ZachLipton's comment agrees with my understanding. If you're saying the airline has a legal obligation not to strand you, can you give a reference for that claim? – Nate Eldredge Sep 27 '17 at 21:52
  • @ZachLipton: What about E(2)(a), at least if it's not an advance notification and you've already embarked on the return journey? – Mehrdad Sep 27 '17 at 22:27
  • @Mehrdad Even that is made fairly meaningless, in my reading, by E(3) right below it. It says that if there are irrops caused by the airline, they'll transport you on another flight subject to availability, and if they don't do that, they'll refund you. As a practical matter, they will generally do more for you under their customer service policy, which is more generous than the contract, and they don't want to refund you, but nothing about that says to me they can't leave you stranded with a refund if they want. – Zach Lipton Sep 27 '17 at 23:01
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In practical terms, you cannot be stranded by the airline before departure from the origin airport on any flight sequence. That you have booked a round trip ticket really doesn't matter since a round trip is just two origin/destination pairs booked together.

The airline is only obligated by contract to provide you transport for which you have paid. So, what will happen is:

No. 3 - They reaccommodate you on another flight, possibly operated by another airline.

No. 4 - They refund any unused fare without penalty.

Local regulation may strongly favor #3 but it may simply not be possible in within a timeframe that suites the traveler. For example, recent hurricanes close many airports for several days so you may have to wait for a week or more for reaccommodation.

For the nitpickers, it doesn't matter that you're away from home. And for clarity, you can be stranded by the airline at some point in between the origin and destination, including a connecting city.

  • Wait, what? You begin with "In practical terms, you cannot be stranded by the airline before departure from the origin airport on any flight sequence" and you end with "you can be stranded by the airline at some point in between the origin and destination, including a connecting city". These are in direct contradiction to each other... – Mehrdad Sep 30 '17 at 4:00
  • @Mehrdad No, they are not. A round trip or multi-destination Itinerary is composed of multiple sequences. A sequence being a set of flights you check-in for, each having an Origin and Destination. So on a round trip, you have two sequences, two check-ins and two sets or O/D airports. You can only be stranded between and O/D pair. – Johns-305 Sep 30 '17 at 13:07

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