Your flight has been canceled. Your luggage has been lost. You’ve been bumped from a flight. At some point in your life, you’ve likely experienced frustration with the airline industry.
But what exactly are your rights as an airline passenger when such inconveniences happen?
Under federal law, airline passengers have basic rights, and they may be compensated if the airline has violated those rights. An airline passenger’s basic rights are:
• Price — The price you see on the ticket is the price you pay.
• Involuntary bumping — If you can get you to your destination 1-2 hours of your scheduled arrival on a domestic flight, or 1-4 hours on an international trip, the airline owes you 200% of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $650. If the airline can't make these time requirements, it owes you 400% of the fare, up to $1,300.
• Canceled, substantially delayed or rescheduled flight — You have the right to be rerouted at no extra cost to you, or to receive a full refund, even on a nonrefundable ticket. However, take note that airline policies vary about what is a "substantial" delay or schedule change.
• Tarmac delays — The airline may not keep you on a plane without letting you off for longer than three hours for a domestic flight or four hours for an international flight. The airline must provide food and water after two hours, give updates to the passengers every 30 minutes and the restrooms must be operable.
• Delayed/lost luggage — You are entitled to cash, and not vouchers or a discount on a flight.
However, here’s the catch: as a passenger, you must speak up for yourself. You will not get what you’re entitled to unless you ask the airline — and you often have to ask multiple people more than once.
The first thing to do? Talk to the person at the airline counter. If you do not get anywhere with that person, ask to speak to a manager. If you’re still not getting anywhere, call the airline’s passenger service department, use the airline’s online services to express your concerns, or file a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Most importantly, be courteous, yet firm, when expressing your concern or complaint to the airline — and recognize that it may take some time to reach a resolution.