This is a question that comes up a lot. Does an airline have to offer any compensation for a flight delay due to bad weather? The ugly answer is, no.
If mother nature rears her temperamental head and your plane gets grounded due to a snowstorm, thunderstorm, or an excessively full moon (might blind the pilot), an airline doesn’t necessarily have to do anything for you, other than reroute you to your final destination once the skies have cleared.
However, after highly publicized ordeals of stranding passengers on tarmacs for hours on end, many airlines are now going out of their way to make customers feel like they are being taken care of… and it’s a nice effort.
For instance, recently my Southwest Airlines flight was delayed due to an ice storm. (Looked like rain to everyone on board, but hey, who wants to mess with ice?). We were de-iced twice, then by the time we finally made it to the tarmac to take off two hours later, the pilot informed us we were now low on gas and had to return to the terminal. Funny. Everyone was allowed to get up and wander around (on the plane only—no deplaning), and we were served water and snacks. Then, after they got us the gas, we sat for another hour, after which they came on and said we were now waiting for food services to bring us more water. Not as funny. Apparently we had some very thirsty drinkers on our plane.
Then, of course, we had to get de-iced a third time. By this point no one was giving much thought to the idea that we would actually be leaving that night, but we were eventually cleared for takeoff and off we went.
(Thankfully, everyone had a full cell phone battery and rides were able to be informed of the delay.)
A day later I got a nice apology letter from Southwest, along with a $50 voucher to use on a future flight. While it’s certainly a marketing ploy by Southwest to get me to travel with them again, it was a sincere gesture, and I’ll likely use it—providing I travel with a planeload of people who don’t feel the need to drink down an entire supply of water.
My only complaint? Southwest doesn’t have TVs onboard yet. Could’ve used them for sure.