Delays, cancellations and destroyed travel plans: 2018 has been one of the worst years in terms of flight disruptions, with a record number of travel plans going awry. However, no matter what goes wrong, you’re prepared; here AirHelp explains the 10 commandments of air travel you always need to remember in case your flight is disrupted.
1: Thou shalt have food and water: What could be worse than waiting for a delayed flight? Having to wait for a delayed flight on the tarmac! Many travelers don’t know that they are actually granted certain rights in those annoying situations. The U.S. Department of Transportation created a set of regulations on tarmac delays that apply to delays that occur at U.S. airports. After two hours, the airline crew is required to provide you with food, water, operational lavatories and medical care if needed. After a tarmac delay of three hours, passengers must be given the option to deplane. (Although passengers who experience an extended tarmac delay at a foreign airport while flying to the U.S. may be protected against extended tarmac delays by the laws of another nation, they are not protected from extended tarmac delays by U.S. law.)
2: Thou shalt have a nice comped hotel: The question of whether or not you have to pay for an unplanned hotel stay following a disrupted flight is something that even frequent travelers are unsure about. In fact, under European law EC261, the airline is supposed to provide passengers on European flights with transportation to their hotel or accommodations, and a hotel stay.
3: Thou shalt be compensated for messed up luggage: There are so many things that may go wrong when it comes to your luggage. So it will be music to your ears to hear that there is a regulation called the Montreal Convention that grants you a right to financial compensation in case your suitcase gets delayed, lost or damaged after you check in for your flight. Whether you’re flying within the US or to one of the other 120 countries that ratified the Montreal Convention, if you experience luggage issues while traveling, you may be entitled to compensation. Under U.S. and Montreal Convention air passenger rights laws, the maximum compensation from an airline for checked luggage that is either lost or damaged is $1,525 – $3,500. If your luggage is damaged, make sure to file a report within 7 days, and complaints for delayed luggage should be filed within 21 days. Luggage that doesn’t arrive within 21 days is considered lost – after this period there is no time limit for complaints. Make sure to always hold onto your receipts, because you can be reimbursed for anything that was lost or damaged that you needed for your tip. For example, if you have to buy a suit for an important meeting, you can get reimbursed for the suit so you can replace them.
4: Thou shalt not leave Fido at home: Animal lovers don’t have to skip their vacations, as long as they make themselves familiar with individual airlines’ pet rules. This is especially important in light of recent tragedies. If you wish to travel with your furry best friend, we advise you to research the airline’s rules. For example, some airlines only allow assistance or guide dogs to travel in the cabin. Others base their paw fees on your pet’s size and weight, plus their carrier’s measurements. When making the decision of whether to bring your pet along, you should consider: the size of your pet; the pet carrier; pet/dog carrier fees; the temperament of your four-legged friend; and the airline’s overhead bin space availability.
5: Thou shalt avenge your injuries: If you suffer some kind of injury while being on the plane, you are entitled to financial compensation. Thanks to a modification to the international regulation, the Montreal Convention, you can now get up to $138,000. It is also worth knowing that if your case requires legal action, you might be able to take it to court in your home country, if the airline operates flights there.
6: Thou shalt help other passengers: It happens all the time in movies: a passenger gets a heart attack, the crew asks “is there a doctor on board?” and George Clooney steps in to save the day. But what if a medical urgency happens in real life? It’s worth knowing that you have the right to help out, which means that even if you are not a doctor, you can assist another passenger in need, and you are covered by legal protection if you do so.
7: Thou shalt get on the flight: Selling more tickets for a flight than seats available is a common practice in the airline industry, which sometimes leads to passengers being denied boarding, although they arrived at the gate on time and ready to board the flight. As this is an extremely frustrating situation, the airline cannot get away with offering you a food voucher as consolation. If you’re bumped, and you don’t volunteer to deplane or take another flight, you can be eligible for compensation of up to $1,350, depending on the value of your ticket fare and ultimate delay in arrival to your final destination. If you’re flying within the U.S. and you’re put on a flight that arrives within 1 – 2 hours of your planned arrival, you can be compensated 200% of your one-way ticket fare up to $675. If the delay is more than 2 hours for a domestic flight, you may claim up to $1,350. If you’re traveling abroad, and the delay to your destination compared to your original flight is between 1 – 4 hours, you can get compensated 200% of your one-way fare up to $675. For delays more than 4 hours, you may be entitled to 400% of one-way fare up to $1,350.
8: Thou shalt be treated equally: If you have a disability, you encounter more and different burdens when planning your trip. Especially due to this, nobody should be allowed to put even more obstacles in your way. Therefore, no airline can refuse to accommodate you. In fact, they are required by law to make sure accommodations are available. This is because of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a law which makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. Airlines are also required to provide passengers with disabilities many types of assistance, including wheelchairs or other guided assistance to board, deplane, or connect to another flight; seating accommodation assistance that meets passengers’ disability-related needs; and assistance with the loading and stowing of assistive devices.
9: Thou shalt complain: Traveling by air was once a luxurious privilege, but has become as commonplace as taking the train. However, when things go wrong and travel is disrupted, passengers still very rarely complain or claim compensation for the hassle they’ve gone through. One major reason for this is that more than 90% of U.S. travelers still don’t know their rights as air passengers. Besides your right to compensation, you can always complain when an airline doesn’t fulfill the service they’ve promised – some might even take your feedback seriously and try to improve their service.
10: Thou shalt be compensated: If you are on a flight to or from Europe, and you arrive to your destination with delays of more than 3 hours, you may be eligible to file for compensation. As long as your flight isn’t delayed because of “extraordinary circumstances” like weather, terrorism, air traffic control restrictions, or political unrest, you could claim up to $700 from the airline under European law EC 261, which covers passengers in cases where disruptions are the fault of the airline, and the departure airport is within the EU or the airline carrier is based in the EU and the flight is landing in the EU. If you don’t have time to file a claim right away, don’t worry, as you have up to three years to file for compensation. Claim Flights and AirHelp offers a free eligibility check via the website or the app-integrated boarding pass scanner, so you can check whether you are owed money while you’re still at the gate.