When flying these days, there is a good chance that you’ll encounter a problem. Here’s what you need to know before you go:
1. WHEN YOUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED or CANCELLED: U.S. airlines are NOT legally required to compensate passengers for delayed flights because delays due to mechanical problems, air traffic control, or weather are hard to predict. But if you’re stuck on the tarmac for more than TWO hours, they must offer passengers water and snacks. When flying internationally, the picture is a bit better. Foreign airlines usually provide meals or meal reimbursements and a complete refund if the flight is delayed FIVE hours or more. If you find another flight on a different airline, ask the airline if they will endorse your ticket for the other flight. There is no regulation requiring them to do this, but they sometimes do it for goodwill. Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers. Sadly, there are no legal remedies. Under new federal rules, U.S. airlines must allow passengers on domestic flights to deplane after a tarmac delay of THREE hours. However, if the pilot or air traffic control feels there is a security or safety issue, their evaluation overrides the mandate. There are some additional fliers rights that you should be aware of. You can find this information on www.dot.gov
2. GETTING BUMPED: It is routine for airlines to overbook. The idea is that some passengers will not make the flight for various reasons. However, if all ticketed passengers do show up, the airline will ask for volunteers to be bumped. They typically offer volunteers a free ticket, lodging, food, and/or cash. Be sure to negotiate your deal BEFORE you give up your seat.
If you are bumped involuntarily, you are entitled to a written statement describing your rights, as well as the airline’s boarding rules and criteria. You are entitled to more than a future flight voucher (despite what the airline rep may be telling you). Legally, the airline must give you a cash payment of 200% of a one-way fare (up to $650) IF your new flight arrives within 1-2 hours of your original flight. If it arrives 2 hours or more past your original time, you are entitled to a cash payment of 400% of a fare (up to $1,300). If the cost is not printed on your ticket, then the cash payment will be based on the cheapest ticket sold. But there is all kinds of loopholes, such as a confirmed reservation and meeting the airline’s deadline for ticketing and check-in. For more information about getting bumped, go to www.dot.gov
3. LOST BAGGAGE: When any U.S. airline loses your bag, it must refund all baggage fees you paid for the flight(s) AND reimburse you up to $3,300. But first, you have to establish how much the stuff in your bag is worth and file a claim with the airline. For more information on lost baggage right, check out www.dot.gov and http://www.airportlostandfound.com
Five Important Baggage Caveats:
- Watch your luggage and belongings at all times
- Do NOT accept packages from strangers
- If you see unattended baggage or packages anywhere in the airport terminal or parking area, report them immediately to a security officer or authority
- Report any suspicious activities to airport security.
- Do NOT joke about having a weapon or bomb and do NOT discuss terrorism, weapons, explosives or threats while going through the security checkpoint
For more information on passenger rights, visit www.USA.gov
How Getting Bumped or Missing Your Flight Could Affect Your…
Cruise: If you booked your flight through the cruise line, contact them immediately. If you booked your flight independently, the cruise line is NOT required to help or compensate you. It is recommended by most travel experts that you fly in the day before (or the morning of IF it is a late day or night departure). You may want to invest in travel insurance to be on the safe side. For more information, visit www.insuremytrip.com
Tour: This depends on the contract you signed with the tour operator, if you booked your air travel through the tour operator, and if you have travel insurance. Be sure that you understand the policies of the tour operator before you commit.
Hotel: You should be fine if you are late checking in as long as you contact the hotel to let them know the situation. However, if the property is overbooked, it may give your room away. In that case, the property is responsible for finding you a room somewhere else. If that room costs more than the original booking, the hotel will pay the difference. If no other comparable room can be found, the hotel is under no further obligation. But you should still seek compensation by asking for a credit or a voucher for a future stay and/or other perks.
TIP: Travel insurance should be booked through a THIRD party, not through the tour operator, etc.