COOL TIPS: Your Rights As An Airline Passenger

You’ve got a lot more legal rights than you may think.  Think about it.  Flying in the United States has become an adventure…..and not a good kind of adventure.  As a passenger on American air carriers, you have more rights than you’d think. Bumped? Delayed? Baggage lost? You’ve got recourse!

Short of bringing your own personal attorney everywhere you fly, you need only consult your legal rights listed in the Department of Transportation’s Fly Rights.  You can also lawyer yourself up by checking out this essay at the National Law Journal Travel Law.    Or, you can simply review our summary below.  Regrettably, knowing your legal rights as an airline passenger has become almost essential in today’s dysfunctional air travel world.

If You Get Bumped

About 10% of all passengers booked on an oversold flight are likely to get bumped.  If you are one of those unlucky 10%,  you are entitled to compensation.   If your rescheduled flight gets you to your destination one to two hours late, you can double the price of your ticket….up to $675.   When you are more than two hours late in arriving (which is most common) then you can quadruple your ticket price.  The cap is $1,350.

Some airlines may try to take advantage of you and offer airline credit in exchange for the inconvenience. Don’t do it!  Moreover, don’t sign any paperwork, as you can lose your legal rights if you do.  An AirHelp study found that the average payout is $643.  So don’t give in to the airline’s typical $200 offer.   If the airline balks, be sure to refer them to this DOT page.

Weather-related delays

If you are subject to any delays due to weather or equipment “malfunctions” here’s what you are entitled to demand from the airline:

  • Vouchers: If you’re stuck at the airport for a few hours, be sure to request food vouchers so you can eat at the airport restaurants. If you’re delayed overnight, ask for hotel and/or taxi vouchers.
  • Airline miles: Ask for extra miles for the inconvenience if you have a frequent flyer account with the airline.
  • Lounge passes: When you find yourself stuck at the airport for several hours, ask the agent for a lounge pass.

And if you are stuck on the tarmac in a plane waiting to take off, you now have some new rights.  You can no longer be held on a delayed plane for more than three hours on domestic flights.   The pilot is also obligated, by law, to update passengers every 30 minutes, and serve food and water after a two-hour wait.

If your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, and you paid for at least a portion of it with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, Chase will reimburse you up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses like food and lodging.

Where your flight is delayed or canceled and you need to revise your travel itinerary, the airlines must either cover all the expenses of revising your plans or give you a full refund—even if you bought a non-refundable ticket or were rebooked on a different carrier. So, if the only seat left on the next flight out is first-class, you have every right to that seat.  If you’re stuck overnight involuntarily. Just don’t expect the a five-star resort.

Your Luggage Takes a Unapproved Vacation Without You

Your luggage gets lost……not an unexpected scenario.   You’ve got two big issues.   First, you need clothes or personal items until your luggage is found.  Depending on how much your items were worth and how long your bags are missing, you could be repaid up to $3,500 per passenger in liability for a domestic U.S. trip, and up to $1,675 on international flights.   So don’t accept their lame $50 initial offer.

If you paid for your ticket or fees with a credit card, check its benefits. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, for example, offers a stipend of up to $100 per day for clothing, toiletries and charging cables when your baggage is delayed by six hours or more.

How to Get The Airline’s Attention

The airlines don’t make it easy to get a human being’s attention when you have an issue.  The agents at the gate are usually swamped.   So quickly head to another gate staffed by an agent who is not otherwise engaged.  That person can help you as much as the frantic ones at your gate.

If that doesn’t work, try Twitter.   Just explain your situation and  and @mention the airline.  Oftentimes, the airline will respond promptly.

While you are doing these things, you should also call the airline’s customer service line from the airport.  Yes, it is multi-tasking but you’ll be surprised how many times a phone rep will give you a different answer than the gate agents.

Finally, to find the quickest way to speak to a live agent, simply Google “gethuman” plus the airline’s name.

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