Flight cancellations and delays continue to cause problems; here's what you need to know to plan ahead

Across the country, flight cancellations and delays are still causing trouble for many travelers.

"Originally, I had my flight at one o'clock. Got delayed four times," said a male traveler.

"We were rerouted to leave at 6:00 p.m.," said a female traveler. "I just want to get home."

According to reports by the Associated Press, flight tracking service FlightAware shows more than 3,000 U.S. flights were canceled by late afternoon Monday on the East Coast. In addition, more than 6,000 flights in the U.S. were delayed.

Related: Thousands of flights canceled, delayed Monday amid winter storm, pandemic

A winter storm that hit the mid-Atlantic area, combined with a shortage of airline workers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, were among the reasons for the cancellations.

Expert offers advice

Amid the uncertainty and angst, travel expert Angela Rice with Boutique Travel Advisors is offering some advice for travelers.

Rice's first advice is to book an early morning flight.

"Early bird gets the worm," said Rice.

Rice said some people are double-booking flights, especially if they are headed for an important event, like a wedding or a funeral.

"I think that's risky if you're not looking at the terms and conditions," said Rice. "You're going to want to make sure you have either a refundable ticket, or you know that you're going to be able to change that ticket."

Rice also said people should fly direct when possible, and choosing the right airline also matters.

"Definitely work with an airline that has a major hub in your market, because that's gonna ensure you more opportunities to pick a flight that is closest to your original flight, in the event there is a cancellation."

Also, people should track their flight on any number of apps. Those who are the first to know there's an issue have an improved chance of rebooking quickly.

How to get refunded if a flight is canceled

While a canceled flight is the last thing anyone traveling during the holiday season wants to hear, there is a silver lining: Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations guarantee you a refund.

Read more: Flight canceled? Here’s how to get a refund

"A passenger is entitled to a refund if the airline canceled a flight, regardless of the reason, and the passenger chooses not to travel," the DOT website explains.

A passenger is also entitled to a refund if the airline makes a significant schedule change or significant delays in the flight and the passenger chooses not the travel, according to the DOT. The DOT, however, has now specifically defined what constitutes a ‘significant delay.’

Whether you are entitled to a refund depends on many factors – including the length of the delay, the length of the flight, and your particular circumstances. DOT determines whether you are entitled to a refund following a significant delay on a case-by-case basis," the DOT writes. 

However, because of heavy holiday traffic, getting your refund doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to book another flight for the same price. You may be forced to scramble for a more expensive ticket last minute. 

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