When weather conditions ground a plane, it creates a domino effect of cancelled flights across the country. Add in that nearly 2 million people fly each day and you could easily find that part of your travels may be spent trying to get a seat on another plane.
Legal insurance counsel ARAG® advises travelers to keep in mind their rights when flying.
Flight Delays or Cancellations
If your flight is delayed or cancelled for problems beyond anyone's control, like weather or safety issues, most airlines will rebook you on the next available flight at no charge. They may even book you with another airline without charging you extra. Airlines are not required to provide any amenities, such as meal vouchers or hotel rooms, in this situation.
Similarly, if your flight is delayed or cancelled for something the airline could control, such as a maintenance issue, the airline will likely rebook you on the next available flight, either theirs or another airline, at no charge. The airline is still not required to provide amenities; however, many will provide meal vouchers and even hotel rooms and grooming kits if your delay causes an unexpected overnight stay.
If you are "bumped" for a domestic flight that is oversold, you are likely legally entitled to compensation for a new flight. Generally, when the flight is oversold, the airlines will ask for willing passengers to volunteer to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight and compensation. They may also negotiate with free tickets or travel vouchers.
"If you accept one of these offers," says Ann Cosimano, General Counsel for ARAG, "be sure to ask some deal-breaking questions such as when the ticket expires or if it's only available certain days of the week or during certain seasons."
If no one volunteers and you're bumped involuntarily, you should receive a written statement from the airline that describes your rights and how the carrier decided which passengers were bumped. If you're not rebooked and scheduled to arrive at your destination within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time, then you are entitled to compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the ticket price and length of delay. To be eligible for compensation, you must have a confirmed reservation and have checked-in with the airline within their deadlines.
If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result. In addition, on domestic flights using aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, compensation is not required if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.
"If you are delayed on the tarmac of a domestic flight before taking off or after landing, you may have rights if the delay is more than three hours," says Cosimano. DOT rules prohibit most U.S. airlines to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours unless air traffic control or the pilot decides there are reasons related to safety, security or airport operations.
If you are delayed on the tarmac of a domestic flight, you are entitled to food and water no later than two hours after the delay begins. Lavatories must remain operable and medical attention must be available if needed.
Published with permission from RISMedia.