Get Away With Fran

April 6, 2010

See Fran on Fox – Flyers’ Rights

Filed under: Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 3:29 am

Ok, getting to the airport to find your flight is cancelled or you are otherwise denied boarding just stinks. But what should you do in this situation? And what are your rights?

Help, my flight has been canceled

Check the DOT website for consumer advice and regulations.

Contrary to popular belief, airlines are not required to compensate you for damages if you get to the airport and find your flight has been cancelled.

They do have to accommodate you on another flight. And often they will try to put you on another of that carrier’s flights. But depending on the reason for the cancellation (delayed flight crew, mechanical), you may also have the right to request going on another carrier, if that carrier’s schedule is better (while in line waiting to get re-ticketed, check your iPod or Blackberry for schedules).

If the agent doesn’t offer to put you on another, more convenient carrier invoke Rule 240. They may look at you like you have three eyes, but this old rule basically means they should put you on the next flight even if on another carrier. The website Consumerist.com even recommends you carry a copy of the rule and your carrier’s policy on cancelled flights when you fly (the latter policy can be found at the airline’s website).

Also, if you get to your flight much later than scheduled and/or have to do a very different routing, call the airline’s consumer line and complain, and you may get some compensation (usually $100 in airline credit to be used for a future flight).

What is I get bumped because the flight is overbooked. Can I get money?

There are two kinds of bumping: voluntarily and the other involuntary. When a flight is oversold, the gate agents will ask for volunteers and offer you $200 or $400 and sometimes even more in air credit if you give up your seat. It’s your decision whether to take it. They then book you on that carrier’s next available flight (or occasionally on another carrier’s flight).

If you are involuntarily bumped due to an oversold flight, you are covered by DOT regulations (see http:airconsumer.dot.gov). If you arrive at your destination more than an hour late, you may be entitled for compensation up to $400, or the cost of your ticket. If you are more than two hours late you may get up to $800, or the ticket cost. But the airlines have several outs the way the rules are written. And the carrier probably won’t volunteer the cash unless you ask. You also, BTW, have the option of cancelling your trip for a full refund.

What if my flight is really late?

If your plane is late, especially due to weather or air traffic congestion, you won’t get much, if anything. For a mechanical delay, you may be offered meals and compensation for phone calls and maybe even a hotel stay if you are delayed overnight, but again, you have to ask. There is no federal rule requiring the airline to do any of this. Each carrier in the U.S. sets its own policy (check the airline’s website). But in Europe, airlines are required to compensate you for late flights, with meals, calls, hotels and sometimes cash, up to the amount of the ticket, but again there are exceptions such as weather delays.

What happens if my luggage is lost?

The question is, is the luggage lost or delayed. If delayed, the airline personnel will typically offer you a toiletry kit and send you on your way with a promise your bags should arrive in a day or two. If more than 24 hours, start asking for compensation to buy clean clothes and additional toiletries (check that airline’s website for their policy). If your luggage is really lost, and only about 2% of bags are, you are entitled to compensation based on the depreciated value of your items, up to $3,300 in the U.S. (substantially less in Europe).

What’s the deal with the latest security rules?

TSA is using random search measures (they announced this last week), but exactly what and when is secret. There are expected to be more pat downs, use of technology screening, dogs. You can, BTW, opt out of technology screening in favor of a pat down. And you still can’t carry large containers of liquid and do in the U.S. need to take your shoes off.

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