What are your rights on an airplane?

With all of the negative press major airlines have been receiving lately for their treatment of paying customers, it’s not hard to imagine what you would do if something similar happened to you while traveling. From flight cancellations to lost luggage, what exactly are you entitled to as a passenger of an airplane? And what rights do you automatically terminate when you purchase your ticket or board the aircraft? To help clarify these issues, we’ve detailed 4 common scenarios and what your rights are for each situation.

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1. If you get involuntarily bumped from your flight

Airlines frequently over-sell seats on their planes to make up for inevitable “no-show” passengers. This, in of itself, is not an illegal practice. When an airline overbooks a flight and there aren’t enough seats for all of the passengers, the Department of Transportation requires that the airline ask passengers individually if anyone would be willing to voluntarily give up their seat in exchange for compensation. If enough people volunteer, you’re in the clear. But even if you don’t volunteer (and no one else does,) it is possible that you could STILL find yourself bumped off of your flight, even if you are in desperate circumstances.

This, unfortunately, is an instance where you’ve given up your rights. When you purchased your ticket, you agreed to the airline’s “Contract of Carriage,” which means that the airline has every right to remove you from a flight if it’s overbooked, but not without compensating you for your trouble. You’ll receive a letter explaining how the decision is made to remove certain passengers. You’ll also receive compensation that corresponds to the hassle experienced. If the airline is able to provide transportation for you to arrive at your destination within an hour of your original arrival time, then you won’t get much, or any, compensation.

But, if you choose to make your own arrangements or the airline is unable to secure substitute transportation within an hour of your arrival time, you’ll receive up to 400% of your one-way fare, plus the ability to use your ticket on a future flight. You also have the right to demand cash, as opposed to a cashier’s check; and don’t ever accept airline credit. Go for the check or cash to avoid being taken advantage of!

 

2. If your luggage is delayed, damaged or lost

Even though it rarely happens, losing luggage is a prevalent fear for travelers worldwide. The good news is that if an airline permanently loses or damages your bag beyond all repair, they are required to compensate you for the depreciated value of the belongings and luggage (after filing a lengthy claim, of course.) If your bag is merely delayed an hour or two, you’ll just have to wait around and bide your time until it arrives. If the bag is delayed for over a day, though, you’ll be able to be reimbursed for certain items like necessities or be compensated for the wait time.

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3. When purchasing a ticket

Airline passengers have a lot of rights before actually stepping foot on their plane, including price guarantees when purchasing your ticket. By law, you’re allowed 24 hours after booking to change or cancel a reservation without financial penalty (if the flight is more than a week away). Consumers are also protected from fare increases after purchasing a ticket. Once you pay for your ticket (even if the fare was an error on the airline’s part,) the airline has to honor that price and can’t jack up the cost of anything after the fact. That applies to luggage fees, as well. If you prepay for a checked bag, the airline can not increase that price once you get to the airport.

 

4. Services that must be available to you on an airplane

Some travelers aren’t aware of their rights to basic necessities on an airplane. Airlines are required to provide adequate food and water for passengers if the flight is delayed more than an hour and is just sitting on the tarmac. There’s also a rule that prohibits planes from remaining on the tarmac for more than 3 hours without rerouting for deplaning of passengers or at least allowing passengers to leave the plane if they wish. The airplane is also required to have functioning lavatories for passengers and provide updates every 30 minutes on the delay and the options currently available to passengers.

Kimberly Beard

Kim is the Retention Marketing Manager for AirportParkingReservations.com

  • Madelyn

    I was on a Delta flight that was delayed 3+ hours because of their computer glitch. Although we were in an airport, we couldn’t leave the gate to get food anywhere, because they kept insisting they’d be boarding in “just 15 minutes.” They kept telling us to line up and then to sit back down again–“for just 15 minutes”. Yeah, right. Also, their idea of “adequate” food and water consisted entirely of the bottles of water and the little packets of pretzels they serve in the plane.

  • Birdfish

    IT WOULD BE NICE TO BE ABLE TO TRAVEL ON THAT PLANE TO GO SEE KINFOLKS DOWN IN TENNESSEE BUT IT IS VERY EXPENSIVE FOR POOR FOLKS AND VERY DISCRIMINATORY.

    HOW ARE HEAVY SET FOLKS GOING TO SIT IN THOSE CHAIRS???? I HAVE SEEN PICTURES AND THEY ARE VERY SMALL AND I HAVE SOME HEAVY SET KIN FOLKS WHO HAVE BEEN ON THE PLANE AND THEY CANT EVEN FIT.

    I HAVE A GLAND CONDITION THAT MAKES ME HEAVY SET. THIS IS A MEDICAL PROBLEM. JUST LIKE THEY SHOULD HAVE TO TAKE CRIPPLED FOLKS ON THEIR PLANES THEY SHOULD HAVE TO TAKE HEAVY SET FOLKS. AND EVEN IF YOU BUY MORE SEATS YOU STILL CANT FIT INSIDE THEY ARE TO NARROW AND THE ROWS ARE SO SMALL YOU CANT EVEN WALK DOWN THE PLANE!!!!!

    THE FDA SHOULD REGULATE THE PLANES AND MAKE THEM ACCOMODATE THE HEAVY SET FOLKS BY LAW!!!!!!!

    NOTE: I HAVE A HATEFUL CYBER STALKER. HE CAN EVEN POST WITH MY OWN NAME. I DONT KNOW HOW. HE IS HATEFUL AND VILE AND A DEVIL OR EVEN A DEMOND. I HAVE TO GO TO THE DIALYSIS. IGNORE HIS HATEFUL MOCKERIES

    • Birdfish

      BUT TRUE I WOULD NEED A HOG SIZED PLANE TO FLY MY LAZY FLABBINGS BECAUSE I AM 492LBS OF WELFARE HOGFAT

      I DID THIS TO MYSELF TO MAKE MYSELF DISABLED AND GET THOSE WELFARES

      I LEARNED THIS IN JAIL FROM MY CELL MATE RUFUS

      RUFUS WAS MY WELFARE TEACHER

      PLEASE IGNORE MY CYBER STALKER

      THIS IS MY WELFARE APPLICATION PICTURE

      I WAS SO MUCH THINNER THEN!!!!!
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/53c67b5d35bad4f283dc409063151ed9b1e219eb58db3165e0c308fb83d50b97.jpg

      • Birdfish

        THAT IS VERY HATEFUL FAKE BIRDFISH
        NO THAT IS NOT MY PICTURE!!!!!!!!!!
        AND I DONT GET THE WELFARES I GET A FEW PROGRAMS LIKE SSI AND LINK AND SECTION 8 AND MEALS ON WHEELS AND SOME PILL PROGRAMS AND FREE LIGHTS AND A FEW OTHER THINGS
        SO WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

        THIS IS THE AIRPLANE NEWS SITE AND THEY NEED TO KNOW THAT HEAVY SET FOLKS CANT SIT IN THOSE SEATS OR WALK DOWN THE ISLES OR EVEN FIT IN THE ROWS!!!!!!
        THEY NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.
        IT IS A GLAND CONDITIONS
        NOT FROM RUFUS OR THE EATINGS

        AND ONE MORE THING!!!!
        THEY DONT EVEN TAKE YOUR PHOTO WHEN YOU GET THE WELFARES!!!!!!!!!!!!
        HAHAHAHA
        GOTCHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Birdfish

          WELL OK THE TRUTH IS I GET…
          SECTION 8 STABLE FREE
          FOOD STAMPS
          LINK CARDS
          FREE GAS
          FREE ELECTRICITY
          FREE TV
          FREE
          CABLE
          FREE WATER
          FREE WELFARE ON WHEELS
          FREE WELFARE COUCH
          FREE TOBY PHONE
          FREE WELFARE TOLIET
          AND NO I COULD RIDE ON THE AIRPLANES WITH NORMAL FOLKS BECAUSE I AM A WELFARE FATTY AND THERE ARE NO FREE WELFARE PLANE TICKETS THAT I KNOW OF
          AND YES I DO HAVE A WITCH DOCTOR AND HIS NAME IS DR. SLAPPY.

          THIS IS DR. SLAPPY IN MY MEDICAL GROUP OF WITCH DOCTORS
          HE DOES THE SLAPPINGS
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/55398deb37907feb5a1b686d07c6b91791d08e08a2eb3b1e15929a88f129a597.jpg

  • julius rosen

    Who do I call if they won’t let us off or give out water?

    • Kyle Michel Sullivan

      Exactly. Two Air Trans flights ignored these requirements in Montreal, even with the airport offering to provide assistance, and the company’s taking the attitude they did right. Do you sue them? Will that do any good?

      • julius rosen

        Only if sued will it ever matter – hit them in the profit line….

      • Craig Anderson

        Well there’s the problem – did you ask nicely in French?
        Quebec Prov – the only place you were ask someone a question in English and they answer you in French….

    • Johann Koehl

      You call the Airline Nazi!