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What is Delta doing to help its stranded passengers? (+video)

Delta is offering compensation for flight cancellations and delays after widespread network outages, but there's some fine print. 

As Delta enters the second day of widespread flight cancellations and delays globally, the company is taking measures to make things right with consumers by offering some compensation for thousands of flight delays and cancellations.

Though the company got its computer systems running a few hours after what the airline said was a massive power outage at its Atlanta headquarters on Monday, the disruption spilled over into Tuesday, with the airline canceling more than 300 flights so far this morning.

These come after about 1,000 flights were canceled on Monday and nearly 3,000 were delayed, stranding frustrated passengers at airports around the world.

“When you want to cry like the little kids who are stuck overnight at the airport but you're an adult,” a user under the name Miriam Palmer lamented on Twitter.

Making things worse for some passengers Tuesday morning, Delta’s flight-status updates weren’t working, as the Associated Press reports. Many passengers only learned about the delays and cancellations when they arrived at the airport.

“By the time I showed up at the gate the employees were already disgruntled, and it was really difficult to get anybody to speak to me or get any information,” Ashley Roache, whose flight from Lexington, Kentucky, to New York’s LaGuardia Airport was delayed, told AP. “The company could have done a better job of explaining … what was happening.”

Delta is offering compensation to passengers affected by the outages. Some of what customers are entitled to is not apparent from looking at Delta’s website. Here’s what passengers should know about their rights:

  •  While Delta is not required by law to compensate passengers for delays or cancellations, its contract with customers entitles passengers to a full refund for flight cancellations, according to Traveler’s United, a consumer advocacy. However, for passengers completing the second leg of their trip (flying home from vacation, for example), “that’s where things get sticky,” says Charles Leocha, founder of the advocacy organization. In that case, Delta will have to figure out the value of the return ticket only.
  • For passengers flying from European Union countries to the United States whose flights were delayed for more than 4 hours or canceled, the EU requires that the airline provide 600 euros, or about $660, and get passengers back home. Fewer hours of delay get less in compensation.

Those are the only two reimbursements Delta is legally accountable for. Here’s what the airline is offering on top of those requirements:

  •  $200 in vouchers to people whose flights were canceled or delayed at least three hours. Customers who gave their email addresses to Delta will receive the voucher in about a week, says the airline. Others should complete this form.
  •  A waive of its fee to change or cancel a flight to passengers on certain routes: $200 for domestic flights and up to $500 for international flights.
  •  Travelers wanting to rebook Monday’s or Tuesday’s canceled flights must do so before Friday, Aug. 12 to avoid penalties. The new trip has to begin no later than Friday, says Delta. If people need to travel after Friday, they have to pay the difference between the cost of their original ticket and the new fare.

For some, Delta isn't going far enough to remedy the problem. “The airline is forcing consumers to dance to Delta’s tune instead of making passengers whole,” says Mr. Leocha, who criticizes the tight constraints Delta is placing on passengers for booking and changing flights. 

As the AP points out, Delta is not the first to suffer recent, major computer glitches. Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over four days last month after a computer outage it said resulted from a faulty network router.

United Airlines stranded thousands of passengers after a failed attempt to merge its technology systems with Continental Airlines's during their 2010 merger. And, British Airways's attempt to update its technology has grown lines at some airports, reports the AP.

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