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Consider a multi legged flight itinerary issued by Airlines A, and the itinerary involves Airlines A and B. Now consider B cancels the flight due to pilot or crew shortage, and the next flight by Airlines B is five days later (assigned by Airlines B). In this case, which airlines is in charge of accommodation, delayed compensation, meal vouchers etc, Airlines A or B?

In reality, the total duration of the itinerary was close to 30 hours and both airline staff on ground were tossing responsibility and did not provide accommodation or anything. I personally had to book the hotel. I have raised complaints on both Airlines A and B with generic responses being made. I am told it is the responsibility of the issuing airlines (A) until the passenger reaches the final destination, subject to correction. If I were to make a formal complaint at higher authority (Government level); against which airlines should the complaint be addressed?

  1. Airlines A
  2. Airlines B
  3. Both A and B

Update: Airlines A is a Middle East operator, Airlines B is US airlines. Stuck in US, cancelled due to staff shortage. The flight that got cancelled was delayed multiple times and then cancelled all of a sudden reporting staff shortage (after boarding passes were issued).

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    Far to many variables here to give a valid answer. At an absolute minimum it will depend on the location (country), the airlines involved, how much notice was given for the cancelation, and the reason for the delay.
    – Doc
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 20:19
  • Updated with more details Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 21:09
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    In the EU, the operating carrier should be the point of contact (even though the airlines still often toss the ball around). Absent a specific legal rule like in the EU, your contract at base is with the issuing carrier or the travel agent (who you paid money to). But I am not familiar enough with US regulations.
    – xngtng
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 21:34

2 Answers 2

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Even with the additional information you've provided it's still difficult to give a complete answer, but let's try...

I'm going to presume this issue occurred within the past few days. The US is currently experiencing a 'once in a generation' weather event. Well over 10,000 flights have been cancelled across the country over the past few days, and airlines will likely be struggling to catch up over the next week or so. Unlike most storms that affect only a part of the US, this one has affected every single US mainland state except California, has resulted in countless state-of-emergencies being declared across the country, and even resulted in some airports being closed for days on end.

This is almost certainly the cause of your cancellation/delays. The specific reason might have been unavailability of crew as you've stated, but that will be a flow-on effect of the weather.

In a situation like this, there is no requirement under any US legislation to provide any form of accommodation, meals, compensation, or pretty much anything more than a commitment to eventually get you to your destination as soon as if feasible. The airline themselves will also not offer any of these things where the delays is being caused (directly or indirectly) by such a major weather event. (There are a few exceptions here, such as provisions by some airlines where you are flying international business class - but you haven't mentioned that you were, so they likely don't apply).

The government organization that you would need to complain to would be the US Department of Transportation, but given the weather event currently occurring, the odds of them doing anything with your complaint is zero - especially as it doesn't appear that the airlines have actually done anything wrong.

As far as which carrier is responsible for getting you to your final destination, this would primarily fall to airline B, presuming that you have already completed your trip with airline A, AND presuming that airline A delivered you to your connection point on time. Rebooking for "Day of flight" cancellations are the responsibility of the airline that canceled the flight. Airline A (being the airline that issued the ticket) will likely also be able to rebook you in this specific case. Without more details it's difficult to know which option would be best, but personally I'd probably be trying both options.

The correct course of action to take at this point is to contact your travel insurance provider, as this would almost certainly be covered by travel insurance. This, of course, presumes that you have travel insurance...

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It's hard to tell a generic answer here.

  1. This rules governing this are typically spelled out in the terms and conditions (T&C) of the airlines. Without knowing what the specific airlines are, we can't help much. I suggest reading them yourself (you did agree to them when you booked).
  2. It's not unusual to get stuck in "finger pointing". I.e. the T&C of airline A will state that B is responsible and vice versa. Some airlines are better than others.
  3. In most cases the operating carrier is on the hook: it's their fault and in some cases the marketing carrier doesn't even has a presence at the location where the problem happens. I recommend being insistent: "it's your flight, your cancellation and hence its your responsibility". Rinse and repeat. Try a different agent if the first one isn't helping out.
  4. I wouldn't get my hopes up for engaging a "higher authority". If the issue happened in the US (and the authority is not of the religious kind), you can try https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint
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  • I suspect the issue here is more of a ticketing carrier v's operating carrier, rather than marketing v's operating. (Ticketing being the airline that issued the ticket. Marketing being the one who's flight number is on the ticket coupon. Operating being whoever is actually flying the aircraft). That said, without more details it's hard to be sure...
    – Doc
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 0:10

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