It’s what every traveler dreads: the long tarmac delay, a canceled flight, or a lost bag. Because stuff happens when you’re on the road, know your rights before you fly—it could end up earning you money. Here’s how:
Traveling in the United States
In the US, the Department of Transportation has enacted some passenger protections, and increased some rights during the under the Obama Administration.
- If you are involuntarily bumped off a flight (checking in online or on mobile at the 24-hour check-in window can help reduce your odds of this on some airlines), the DOT requires airlines to compensate passengers up to $1,350 for domestic delays longer than two hours or international delays longer than four hours, depending on the original cost of the ticket. Some airlines do ask for volunteers to prevent involuntary bumping. There are exceptions for weather and “act of God” circumstances. –>READ: Delta Dramatically Increases Compensation Amounts
- Enacted in 2011, a DOT rule requires airlines to refund checked baggage fees if that piece of luggage is lost. Of course, they also have to compensate you for the lost, damaged, or mishandled property, which are long-standing rules, including payments up to $3,500 depending on the circumstances.
- Tarmac delays: In 2016, Congress passed and Pres. Obama signed an FAA extension bill that tightened the DOT’s prohibition on “lengthy” tarmac delays and the reporting of those delays. Now, if delays are longer than three hours for a domestic flight or four hours for an international fight, passengers must be allowed to get off the plane. Airlines have faced steep fines for occasionally violating this rule, including a $1.6 million fine to Southwest Airlines and another $1.6 million to American Airlines.