MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Southwest Airlines is the latest major airline dealing with flight cancellations. The company canceled more than 2,000 flights over the weekend, including about a quarter of their flights on Sunday.

It’s been a record year for cancellations. So what kind of compensation should consumers expect when it happens? Good question.

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Over the past year and a half, air travel has changed in some obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

“They don’t give out as many snacks as before, so that’s terrible,” said Ashley Morales, who was flying from the Twin Cities to Texas on Monday.

But that is a minor inconvenience compared to what Southwest travelers are going through.

Kyle Potter is executive editor of Thrifty Traveler, a Minnesota-based travel website. He said when flights hit a standstill last year, airlines needed to get smaller so they retired planes and issued lay-offs. The COVID-19 pandemic also caused many workers to leave. The problem now is that people want to travel again and airlines are stretched thin.

“If one thing goes wrong several things go wrong,” Potter said. “It has a snowball effect. And airline operations just fall apart and that’s what we are seeing with Southwest right now.”

“I have some family that was in Vegas this past weekend and was scheduled to be home Saturday and they got delayed until today,” said Albert Hall, whose family was flying Southwest on Monday.

Spirit Airlines had to cancel hundreds of flights this past summer. Delta had to do it over Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

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“When you buy a ticket, you are buying a contract and that contract says this is not a guarantee that we are going to get you from point A to point B on the time you agreed to pay for,” Potter said.

But what airlines must guarantee you is a full refund if your flight is canceled. It’s actually federal law.

“They are not always very forthcoming about that,” Potter said. “They may just say sorry about your flight, here’s a flight credit to use within the next year.”

The refund only solves half the problem for those who still have to get from point A to point B that same day.

In some cases, it can cost double to re-book with another airline.

So, even if travelers have to pay twice as much to rebook, they can still get the original ticket refunded.

“It’s kind of the one single, non-negotiable thing that we as passengers have,” Potter said.

He added that flight cancellations will likely continue until airlines are able to reset and adjust, to figure out what flights they can handle with the staffing they have.

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John Lauritsen