The Guide to Air Canada’s Cancellation Policy

If your flight's cancelled, you've got options, but it's best to book using a credit card with travel insurance benefits.
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Like other airlines, Air Canada can sometimes succumb to disruptions that lead to canceling a flight.

Getting a phone notification or seeing those red letters saying “Canceled” on the airport monitors for your Air Canada flight is no fun. Hopefully you'll receive notice of a flight delay or cancellation before arriving at the airport to allow you to plan an alternative, but if not, you have some options.

This guide can help you understand how to handle Air Canada cancellations and what the airline’s policies are in case it happens to you.

Why does Air Canada cancel flights?

Airlines don’t have an unlimited number of planes, staff, time or money with which to operate. This means that occasionally an airline has to cancel a flight to avoid disrupting the rest of its network of flights. Here are some common reasons why Air Canada and other airlines have to cancel flights.

  • Lack of staffing. Humans run the airline, not robots. And there is a limit on the amount of time flight crews can work for their health and safety. This means they can “time out” if they have been on duty too long. If weather snarls the schedule, crew members may be in the wrong city and not able to operate the right flight. There may not be alternate crews available, and this means an airline has to cancel the flight. There may also be staffing constraints at the airport, too, or even in air traffic control.

  • Weather. Airplanes have limits on how and where they can operate safely, and when bad weather, such as heavy snow, ice, wind or fog, causes problems, flights can be canceled.

  • Mechanical issues. Planes can break just like any other machine. This requires mechanics to fix any problems. Sometimes, extra parts are required, and they may need to come from far away. Other times, it may be a simple issue like missing paperwork or a malfunctioning control light that means federal regulations won't permit the flight to operate.

  • Operational needs. Sometimes, a plane may be needed in another city to replace another flight that was previously canceled. The operations control center for the airline would decide which flight to cancel and where to use the aircraft to cause the least amount of disruption to passengers.

No matter the reason for the delay or cancellation, you can be prepared by using certain tools like ExpertFlyer, which often posts more detailed reasons for a flight delay or cancellation, or apps like FlightAware to track the inbound flight.

What to do if your Air Canada flight gets canceled

For flights booked directly with the airline

Air Canada will let you know if you have already been rebooked on another flight or how to get rebooked if there are no easy alternatives. This is why it is key to provide as many contact methods as possible. If you are overseas and don't have cellular reception, an email or app notification can come in handy.

You can handle a cancellation and rebook online at aircanada.com/mybookings or by calling 888-247-2262 (or other overseas numbers).

Air Canada's cancellation policy allows you to rebook your flight as far out as five additional days if the carrier canceled your flight. This gives travelers more flexibility.

For upgraded bookings and group travel

If you paid to upgrade your seat or are traveling with other people, the rebooking process can be more complicated, especially if you are organizing travel for an unaccompanied minor.

Complimentary upgrades may not be honored if space isn't available, and sometimes, new seats need to be issued. If you paid for an upgrade or upgraded seat and don't fly in it, you can submit a refund request online.

Finding space for multiple people on a rebooked flight can sometimes be a challenge. If you booked through Air Canada’s group sales department, it is best to contact it directly for personalized service. If you are already at the airport, try an in-person agent first who may be able to assist more quickly.

For flights booked with a travel advisor or online travel agency

If you made a reservation with an online travel agent or travel agent, they should notify you, too. In an ideal situation, they would handle the rebooking, but that's not always the case. This is why using online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia may be less beneficial.

Not all airlines are able to help you if a flight was canceled but booked via a third party. You would need to contact the travel agent instead. Air Canada can help you rebook even if you've booked your flight via certain online travel agents, including Kayak, Skyscanner or Google Flights.

For flights booked in a travel portal

If you used a credit card’s travel site, such as Chase's travel portal or American Express Membership Rewards, you will need to contact its customer service team. These sites act like travel agencies, and while it's nice to use credit card points for free travel, it adds an extra layer of complication if a flight is canceled and needs to be rebooked.

How to get a refund if a flight cancels or changes times

Air Canada will try to rebook you on its next available flight or one from its partner airlines. If this isn't possible, it may turn to an alternate airline outside of its network.

If the flight results in arriving at your destination with a delay of more than three hours, you may request a refund instead of traveling on an alternate flight.

To cancel the ticket, visit the “My bookings”section of Air Canada’s website, and there is also a form to request a refund if you choose not to travel.

If you paid for your ticket with Aeroplan points, the same rules apply. If you cannot get to your destination within three hours, you can cancel the ticket for a refund of points.

Flight delay compensation

There may also be Air Canada flight cancellation compensation in situations where the disruption was within the airline’s control.

The amount is based upon the length of the delay to your arrival time at the final destination.

  • Travelers are eligible for about $292 (400 CAD) for delays between three and six hours.

  • Travelers are eligible for about $512 (700 CAD) for delays between six and nine hours.

  • Travelers are eligible for about $732 (1,000 CAD) for delays over nine hours.

Federal protections from Canada or the U.S.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have guaranteed rights and rules to protect travelers if an airline cancels a flight within its control. This means things like maintenance or crew shortage, but it doesn't include issues like weather.

This is what you should look into if you want to go beyond what the airline says it owes you (or what it says it doesn’t owe you).

Air Canada has a plan in place to provide travelers with accommodations when they must stay overnight due to an airline cancellation. It will also provide meals based on the length of the wait.

There are two conditions when meals and accommodations will be provided. If the passenger was notified only within 12 hours of departure or if the passenger has been delayed at least two hours, they are eligible for these considerations.

If a flight is canceled in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Transportation rules also apply, but so do those from Canada since this is a Canadian airline — passengers should look to both for help.

Flights leaving a European Union member country on any airline qualify for Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, often referred to as EU261, and this can mean there are more substantial compensation perks.

These will vary based on the flight distance as well as how long the flight was delayed. You can receive between $267 and $642 (valued at 250-600 euros) as compensation. This doesn't include delays caused by any sort of weather or labor dispute.

Which travel cards or travel insurance policies can help?

Many popular travel credit cards come with travel insurance, and these built-in protections are one of the main benefits that attract travelers to select them. Of course, you would need to use these cards to pay for the trip if you want the travel protection.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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Cards typically have certain stipulations before their benefits kick into play. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® requires a delay of at least six hours or one that involves an overnight stay before its $500 of protection for meals and lodging is valid.

If the trip is canceled due to severe weather or other covered situations, a cardholder may receive up to $10,000 to cover any nonrefundable expenses.

While airlines will provide coverage for cancellations under their control, this won't include weather. And a credit card with solid protection can help fill that gap. It is key to always have as much documentation about the cancellation or delay as possible, as well as any receipts you would need when filing a claim for insurance. There's not guaranteed reimbursement, but if you meet the guidelines for coverage, it’s a value-added benefit.

Top cards with travel insurance
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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on Chase's website

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
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on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
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on Chase's website

Annual fee
$95
$550
$695
$95
Travel protections (not a comprehensive list)

• Trip delay: Up to $500 per ticket for delays more than 12 hours.

• Trip cancellation: Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $40,000 per 12-month period.

• Trip interruption: Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $40,000 per 12-month period.

• Baggage delay: Up to $100 per day for five days.

• Lost luggage: Up to $3,000 per passenger.

• Trip delay: Up to $500 per ticket for delays more than 6 hours.

• Trip cancellation: Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $40,000 per 12-month period.

• Trip interruption: Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $40,000 per 12-month period.

• Baggage delay: Up to $100 per day for five days.

• Lost luggage: Up to $3,000 per passenger.

• Trip delay: Up to $500 per trip for delays more than 6 hours.

Trip cancellation: Up to $10,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $20,000 per 12-month period.

• Trip interruption: Up to $10,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $20,000 per 12-month period.

• Lost luggage: Up to $3,000 per passenger.

Terms apply.

• Trip delay: Up to $500 per ticket for delays more than 12 hours.

• Trip cancellation: Up to $10,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $20,000 per 12-month period.

• Trip interruption: Up to $10,000 per trip. Maximum benefit of $20,000 per 12-month period.

• Baggage delay: Up to $100 per day for five days.

• Lost luggage: Up to $3,000 per passenger.

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Another option for those who don't have coverage as part of a credit card is to purchase travel insurance directly. Be sure the policy would cover a hotel and meals in the event of an overnight delay or flight cancellations. There are many situations for which travel insurance is recommended, like flying to start a cruise where the ship may leave without you and you need to get to the next port of call.

Surviving Air Canada flight cancellations

Air Canada, government regulations and credit cards all provide some sort of protections for travelers, but you need to educate yourself about what is eligible. The way you booked your ticket can affect how you sort out the delay. Just remember to provide as many methods of contact to the airline as possible so you are notified quickly of any flight disruptions. And the credit card you use to pay for the trip can make a big difference when it comes to backup insurance.

No one wants to experience a flight cancellation, but if Air Canada cancels your flight, now you know what to do.


To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

Insurance Benefit: Trip Delay Insurance

  • Up to $500 per Covered Trip that is delayed for more than 6 hours; and 2 claims per Eligible Card per 12 consecutive month period.

  • Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply.

  • Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

  • Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

Insurance Benefit: Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance

  • The maximum benefit amount for Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance is $10,000 per Covered Trip and $20,000 per Eligible Card per 12 consecutive month period.

  • Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply.

  • Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

  • Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

Insurance Benefit: Baggage Insurance Plan

  • Baggage Insurance Plan coverage can be in effect for Covered Persons for eligible lost, damaged, or stolen Baggage during their travel on a Common Carrier Vehicle (e.g., plane, train, ship, or bus) when the Entire Fare for a ticket for the trip (one-way or round-trip) is charged to an Eligible Card. Coverage can be provided for up to $2,000 for checked Baggage and up to a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on Baggage, in excess of coverage provided by the Common Carrier. The coverage is also subject to a $3,000 aggregate limit per Covered Trip. For New York State residents, there is a $2,000 per bag/suitcase limit for each Covered Person with a $10,000 aggregate maximum for all Covered Persons per Covered Trip.

  • Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply.

  • Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

  • Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.


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