Whether you’re on your way to a vacation destination, coming home from a business trip or visiting family for the holidays, flight delays and cancelations are always bad news and can quickly transform a fun flight into a long night at the airport.

Generally, flight delays and cancelations happen for one of three reasons – the flight was overbooked, inclement weather is nearby (or at your destination) or mechanical issues need a second look. Each of these delays or cancelations comes with their own set of rights for you, the passenger.

Overbooked flights
Airlines are fully within their legal rights to sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. They do this to avoid flying with empty seats should passengers miss their flight. Often, you’ll hear gate agents offering vouchers for future travel, food or lodging if a passenger is willing to give up his or her seat and travel at a later time. If you’re in no hurry and don’t mind leaving later, this could be a win-win for you.

Should you be “bumped” off your flight against your will, the airline is under an obligation to rebook you if possible. If you cannot be rebooked, airlines must pay you up to 200% of your one-way fare up to $650. Check USA.gov for more requirements and restrictions about claiming your refund.

Whether you volunteer to take another flight or are bumped off involuntarily, the airline isn’t required to provide lodging. That means, if your original flight was at 11 p.m. and your new flight is at 6 a.m., the airline does not have to help you find – or pay for – a place to stay. Often the airline will do so, but it is not a requirement. A bummer, we know!

Mechanical issues or weather delays
If your flight is delayed due to poor weather conditions or a mechanical problem, the airline is only obligated to rebook you. It does not need to provide meal vouchers or pay for lodging.

You can always ask the gate agent whether meal vouchers are available, especially for longer delays. Airlines tend to be more willing to give meal vouchers when the delay is due to mechanical issues rather than inclement weather, which is out of the airline’s control.

Tarmac delays
Even when you board the plane and push away from the gate, your wait may not be over. While we’ve all been stuck sitting on the runway for 20 minutes or so, you could be kept in your seat for up to three hours before the flight is required to return to the gate. The airline must provide food and water within two hours of a delay.

Have you ever been stuck at the airport? Share your delay stories with us on Facebook or Twitter!