Plane trips became ordinary. The FAA’ Traffic Organization alone is responsible for the safety and efficiency of over 40,000 flights, for a combined total of 2.7 million airline passengers. This is a big number, considering FAA data only covers the United States.
Evidently, with such amount of daily flights, the problem may arise: from overbooked flights to delays or even cancellations. In case one of these problems affect you, are you aware of your rights?
A study conducted by AirHelp, a passenger rights advocacy site, shows that 81% of airline passengers don’t know their air travel rights.
Even though there has been an improvement in these results in comparison to the prior year (when a similar study indicated that 92% of American passengers were not aware of their air travel rights), the outcome is still worrying, especially considering the fact that most of the time airlines (who should be the first ones to clarify these issues), try to take advantage of passenger’s unawareness.
In this article, we’ll tell you about your rights in 4 different common situations, so that next time you go through them, you’ll know exactly what to do.
1. Flight delay/Cancellation
You were recently on a flight that was canceled or delayed? We’ve got some more bad news. In these cases, there are no federal laws stating that you are due to any form of compensation by the airline.
It is up to the airlines to decide their own airline policies and which passenger rights to give. They usually hand out some form of compensation: paid meals and phone calls, or even a paid hotel stay if the cancellation implies that the passenger can only travel to his destination the following day (and the airline is feeling generous).
That’s for United States airlines. On the other hand, if you’re traveling in the European Union, and as long as the reason for the cancellation is not related to unavoidable circumstances such as weather, political instability or security issues, you do have the right to be compensated. Ask your airline to clarify your rights.
2. Lost or damaged baggage
Lost baggage is one of those problems that passengers just don’t want to deal with. But in case you are one of those unlucky fellas whose baggage ends up God knows where the best thing is to be prepared for the situation and familiar with all your rights.
If your bags never arrive at the baggage claim area, you should immediately file a claim with your airline at the airport. They will investigate the situation in order to understand if your luggage was in fact lost, or if it’s delayed.
If your bags are only delayed, airlines usually agree to pay for expenses related to the issue until the luggage is found and all passenger’s belongings are returned, as long as those expenses are “reasonable”. Having negotiation skills may be important to handle this process. They also provide basic toiletries so you can maintain basic hygiene.
In case the airline forever lost your luggage, you must file a second claim. This is particularly annoying because the passenger not only loses his belongings, but he’ll have to wait a long time to see the situation completely resolved (usually between six weeks to three months).
Within the United States, there is a 3,400$ limit for lost luggage compensation. Beware, because if you paid a fee for the transportation of your luggage, you must receive that exact amount back!
If you want to be extra protected against this scenario, make sure to buy travel insurance, as it reimburses the insured traveler for the value of lost luggage and personal items inside.
Also, if your baggage was severely damaged during transportation, you can also apply for compensation. The airline usually pays for repair or provides you a replacement suitcase.
The fact that it is common practice (and a perfectly legal one) for an airline company to sell more seats for a flight than are actually on the plane might seem a bit strange. They have this policy to protect themselves in the eventuality that some passengers won’t appear for boarding.
In case your flight is overbooked, there are two possible resolutions. First, the airline is required to ask the flight’s passengers to voluntarily give up their seats.
If you decide to volunteer yourself to be bumped from a flight, you’ll probably be rewarded with things like vouchers, hotel stay or straight-up cash. These rewards should be negotiated between you and the airline, and it varies.
If there are no volunteers, you might be involuntarily bumped. The airline must provide you a written document listing all your rights and the reason you were selected to be left out of the oversold flight. Then you have options:
you can choose to keep your ticket and use it on another flight, or you can book another flight with another airline and request compensation after.
This compensation cannot be paid in vouchers. In the United States, airline rules and regulations dictate that if you’re denied boarding on an overbooked flight and delayed more than four hours, the airline must pay you a maximum of 1,350$ (Say 400% of the one-way fare).
Keep in mind that if your airline manages to arrange an alternate flight whose arrival time is similar to your original overbooked flight (within one hour), then no longer have a legal obligation to give you any form of compensation.
If your overbooked flight has a few empty seats in business class you might be the lucky one who gets a free upgrade.
Did you book a flight to Miami and a few hours later you realized that what you really want is to visit New York? Or did you book a last-minute trip to Los Angeles but you somehow chose the wrong airport? You’ll be glad to know that for most flights you can get a full refund as long as 24 hours haven’t passed since booking.
Now that you know some of your travel rights, make sure you keep them in mind as you plan for your next travel experience!
Wish you a bon and happy Voyage!