Travel & Places Air Travel

Air Travel & Consumer Rights

    General Rules

    • Reservations must be confirmed prior to boarding in order for the customer to be eligible for certain rights relating to bumped seats and lost luggage. The flight is only considered confirmed if the "status" box on the printed ticket has been checked off by the airline, e.g., not "wait-listed." Just because the flight is marked "direct" doesn't mean there may not be scheduled stops. Always inquire ahead of time regarding the number of stops on the route. According to the DOT, passengers are entitled to a complete copy of the airlines rules when requested.

    Cancellation Policies

    • Passengers who aren't at the departure gate on time can be canceled from the flight, even if they have already checked in. Passengers who don't show up for a flight, risk having the return flight and all other connecting reservations canceled. In the United States, there are no federal laws requiring airlines to compensate passengers if their flight is delayed or canceled, although policies do vary, depending on the airline. There may be compensation if the flight occurs in Europe and is canceled for any reason that cannot be justified as unavoidable circumstances, such as political events and weather.

    Bumping

    • The airline has the right to involuntarily bump a passenger if the flight is overbooked. In order to receive compensation for the bump, the passenger must have proof of a confirmed reservation. Proof of a printed ticket showing confirmation is satisfactory for this purpose, even if the airline doesn't have an electronic record of the reservation. Passengers must also have checked in on time. Involuntarily bumped passengers generally are entitled to compensation.

    Compensation

    • An airline must provide passengers written notice of their rights if they are bumped involuntarily. It must also arrange for either an alternative flight or immediate monetary compensation equal to the cost of the ticket and the length of time the passenger is delayed. See the link in Resources for more details.

    Lost Luggage

    • Compensation amounts for lost luggage are usually subject to negotiation between the airline and the passenger, although most airlines will compensate for lost possessions. Compensation is limited to $3,000.

    Disability

    • In most cases, an airline cannot refuse service due to a passenger's disability or need for assistance on the flight. The following are highlights of DOT's rules concerning disability provisions and access. All airlines must be able to provide: access in a timely manner to services, gate information, etc. for hearing or visually-impaired passengers; room for service animals as long as escape routes or aisles are not blocked; a wheelchair-accessible toilet and an on-board wheelchair in new wide-body planes; additional conveniences, such as movable armrests on some of the isle seats; and general help with boarding and debarking planes.

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