The airlines have experienced many computer outages over the last few years, stranding thousands of passengers. Here are ways to protect yourself in case you encounter one.

  • Passengers can ask for a refund, even on a “nonrefundable” airfare, if a flight is canceled or “severely” delayed (two hours).
  • If you have travel insurance, see if your policy covers electrical outages or computer system shutdowns. Most common: coverage for trip delays if you need meals or a hotel room, and costs associated with getting to your destination.
  • Some credit cards offer trip-delay protection (typically up to $500 for meals, hotels, etc.) for “equipment failure”; whether this means aircraft or computer equipment is open to interpretation. You must charge your trip with the credit card.
  • If you’re stuck on the runway, U.S. Department of Transportation regulations state that you can request to be deplaned if the delay stretches past three hours on a domestic flight or four hours on an international trip.