PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) - Southwest Airlines is offering a "tremendous apology" to customers after thousands of flight delays and cancellations stranded passengers across the country. The airline blamed "weather and other external constraints."

In a statement Tuesday morning, the company said, "As we complete efforts to stabilize our network, Southwest expects a more normal operation on Tuesday with approximately 90 system-wide cancellations out of the airline's almost 3,300 flights scheduled for the day."

Right now, the mass cancelations are a Southwest problem, but it could very easily be any airline at any time, especially with a busy holiday travel season looming. Each airline has its own policies when it comes to flight cancelations, but airlines are required to provide a refund if a flight is canceled and the passenger chooses to scrap the whole trip. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines must refund even non-refundable tickets, bag fees, and any extras like a seat assignment.

Most airlines will rebook customers for free on the next available flight for passengers who still need to get to their destination. Passengers may also ask to have their tickets transferred to a different airline, but airlines are not required to do that. From Scott's Cheap Flights, Daniel Burnham says some airlines are more likely to transfer tickets than others.

"Something that's interesting with Southwest, as opposed to other legacy airline carriers, is they don't have interline agreements for the most part with other airlines, so if you ran into a similar problem like this with Delta or United, they would be much more likely to rebook you on a different carrier to get you there more quickly," Burnham said.

Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for hotels, food, or other expenses if a flight is canceled or delayed. Still, it doesn't hurt to ask. Request things like vouchers or future travel upgrades. If you receive a voucher, the U.S. DOT says it is important for consumers to ask about restrictions that may come with it, including blackout dates or expiration dates.

Passengers should also check their credit card for travel interruption insurance, according to Burnham.

"A lot of people actually have fairly powerful insurance there that can cover things like accommodations, or even in some cases food and other essentials while you're stuck in a situation exactly like this one," Burnham said.


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