With American Airlines filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy this week, travelers are wondering just what it means to them when their airline goes broke. Chapter 11 is actually good news – it means the airline will keep flying and undergo a reorganization. This means the airline may reduce the number of flights they operate, shedding the unprofitable routes, and renegotiate the salaries and benefits of their employees. In the case of American, official reports say they will honor all tickets and make no changes (for now) to their frequent flyer program. In these uncertain financial times, it has never been more important to know your rights as an airline passenger.
As you can plan your trip to the last detail but there’s no guarantee that nothing will go wrong. You could get involuntarily bumped, your luggage could get lost, and there could be a natural disaster at the airport – that’s why it’s important to know your rights as a passenger.
1. If Your Flight Is Delayed On The Tarmac
If your flight is delayed on the tarmac beyond 2 hours, all US airlines are required to provide you with food, drinking water, functional on-board lavatories, necessary medical attention and so on. Airlines can waive this rule if security is at stake, or if the plane is not allowed to return to the gate.
If the airlines violate the tarmac delay rules the DOT will penalize the airline a certain amount for each passenger. The DOT sets up a payment schedule; when the first bulk payment arrives, the DOT designates a percentage to compensate the passengers. The airlines may be permitted to offer vouchers, refunds or a combination of these, as well as frequent flyer mile incentives.
Airlines are also supposed to display flight delay statistics on their Web sites.
2. If Your Ticket Doesn’t Show On The Airline Reservation System
If you have a printed document that shows you have a confirmed reservation, then your flight is reserved, even if the airline’s computer system doesn’t show it. No airline agent can deny you boarding just because the computer doesn’t show your reservation.
Important Note: Your reservation will have an airline record locator and a ticket number which the airline will use to verify your booking. Even if you have a printed confirmation, your reservation will not be honored unless you can confirmation the official ticket number.
3. If Your Flight Is Delayed Or Canceled
If your flight is canceled, the airline will book you on the next available flight. If your flight is delayed, the airline may pay for your meals and one phone call at their discretion. These policies vary from airline to airline. As a rule, airlines are not required to compensate anyone for canceled or delayed flights if the flight is delayed or canceled because of forces outside the airline’s control. All airlines are required to notify passengers of delays longer than 30 minutes along with flight changes that involve diversions and cancellations. For this reason, it is important to list a cell phone number that you will be travel with in your airline reservation
4. If Your Ticket Bill Shows Additional Fees
Any and all potential fees should be detailed on the airline’s website, including fees for baggage, cancellations, reservation changes, meals, upgraded seating and so on. That apart, both ticket agents and airlines must inform passengers of all government taxes and fees at the time of the fare quote. This is a new mandate that will go into effect in 2012. The DOT will be on the lookout to penalize websites that advertise low base fares without disclosing full taxes and fees.
5. If You Are Bumped Involuntary Off The Flight
If you are involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight, you are to be compensated by the airline according to the length of the delay. Your airline has to give you a written statement describing your rights. If the airline arranges a substitute transportation that is scheduled to get to your destination within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time you will not receive any compensation.
If your substitute transportation arrives between 1-2 hours (1- 4 hours for international flights) after your intended arrival, the airline is required to pay you 200% of the one-way fare, with a cap of $650. For a delay of more than 2 hours (more than 4 hours for international flights), the compensation is 400% of the one way fare, with a cap of $1,300.
If your ticket doesn’t show a specific fare, then the compensation will be based on lowest ticket price in the same class of service that your ticket was booked in. Note: Involuntary bumping has an official airline term “Involuntary Denied Boarding”; make sure you refer to this term while making your case.
6. If Your Baggage Is Lost
If the airline loses your bags, they are bound by law to refund the fees they charge to check in bags. If your bags are declared permanently lost, you can submit a claim; make sure you file the required forms on time or your claim could be delayed. The airline will ask you to provide receipts for checked goods before issuing compensating. Note: It is the practice of most airlines to adhere the baggage claim tickets to the back of your boarding pass. Make sure you keep your boarding pass in a safe place until you have collected your luggage – you would need the baggage claim number to complete a lost or damaged claim form.
7. If Your Baggage Is Damaged
If your suitcase is open on the conveyer belt, check for damage and pilferage and ask the airline to issue a report before you leave the airport. The airline usually pays for damage to your baggage, and your belongings. However, Airlines may decline to pay if belongings are damaged due to their fragile nature or improper packing.
8. If Your Baggage Is Delayed
Contact the airline personnel and ask them to create a report of delayed bags and give you a copy. Usually, Airlines track the delayed bags in few hours and return them to their owners. You can negotiate compensation with the airline if the bags are not delivered within a few hours. The airline may also disburse some amount for emergency purchases at the airport.
9. If You Suffer Discrimination Owing To Disabilities
If you are disabled and feel that you have been discriminated on a flight, you can complain to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). If an airline denies you passage because of your disability, they are required to provide a written statement with detailed reasoning within 10 calendar days. The CRO is required to provide their conclusions before the flight with regard to your claims of discrimination. Note that airlines do not have to respond to complaints that come in 45 days after the original violation. If you wait longer than this, your rights will diminish and you won’t have a case.
About The Author: This article is contributed by Teena. She is a travel writer for Australian Adrenaline Gift Ideas Company – Adrenalin.com.au