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The Real Reason for Flight Cancellations

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Credit: Wikimedia: Hotelstvedi

Credit: Wikimedia: Hotelstvedi

Remember the days when you could often fly on a plane with the seat next to you empty? And every once in a while you got a whole row to yourself?

Well, the days of flying at 50 percent load factors are long gone. Now, flights are on average 86 to 87 percent full.

So, what happens if the unthinkable happens and you find yourself on a lightly booked flight? What are the odds the airline is going to cancel the flight?

The good news is that airlines don’t only cancel a flight because it’s lightly booked. It’s not beneficial to cancel flights for economic reasons. An airline is required to pay the crew, regardless of whether they fly. And they also have to pay to re-accommodate travelers. In fact, the only big saving is fuel.

However, when something goes wrong–weather or mechanical problems–airlines are much more likely to target lightly booked flights.

Watch Wall Street Journal columnist Scott McCartney as he explains the most common airline policies for  flight cancellations and your rights as a traveler.