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Air travel is messy. What can I do if my flight is delayed or canceled?

Just because we're ready to travel again doesn't mean the airlines are.

INDIANAPOLIS — People are taking to the skies after a long two years of being cooped up.

But just because we're ready to go doesn't mean the airlines are.

Willis Orlando with Scott's Cheap Flights said there just aren't enough planes in the sky.

"These very, very full planes means that when something goes wrong," Orlando said, "we kind of have a cascading effect."

Long delays and cancellations can leave consumers on the hook for expenses including food and a hotel.

How do I protect my purchase? 

Your first move should be to check your credit cards' terms and conditions to see if they offer travel insurance. 

"Very, very often, your credit card is already going to cover trip cancellation or interruption. Those policies tend to be more generous and easier to deal with as well," Orlando said.

Confirm the plane tickets were purchased on the card with insurance. If the none of your cards offer this feature, consider travel insurance.

"For a small domestic flight that's cheap, you may be paying as little as $25 or $30 for travel insurance, in which case, it really seems to make a lot of sense given the tumult we're dealing with right now," Orlando said. 

Insurance prices are based on the flight price. 

But before you purchase a policy, look up the companies on the Better Business Bureau or Google to see if there are any complaints about claims not getting paid. 

Also, make sure the policy covers your concerns - like weather or sickness. 

Orlando said labor action, or employee strikes, are often not included. While some US airlines are striking, it's happening more in overseas. 

"Especially if you're flying to Europe, which many, many people are right now. Check your flight status every week heading up to when you're flying and the week of check every day," he said.

You can do this by using a search engine or checking the airport's website.

What are my rights?

If your flight is canceled or significantly delayed in the U.S., you are owed a refund under federal law. While "significantly" isn't defined, it's typically two hours or more. 

While you can ask the airlines for accommodations, they are not required to provide passengers with money or other compensation for costs that fall outside of the canceled airline ticket and fees tied directly to the airline ticket when flights are canceled. 

When airlines are looking for volunteers to move flights, Orlando suggests not taking the first offer. 

If it's a domestic flight and the next option is between one and two hours later than your original departure, the airline can pay you twice the one-way fare up to $775.

If the next flight out is more than two hours from your original departure time, the airline can pay you four times the one-way fare up to $1,550.

For international flights, that time frame is longer. 

Payments are generally in the form of vouchers, but Orlando said Delta Choice gift card vouchers can be converted into Visa gift cards. 

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