How to Get Compensated for the Airline's Inconvenience
In light of the United Airlines passenger who was violently removed from his seat due to an overbooked flight, it’s natural for one’s reaction to freak out and cause an uproar. After all, you paid for your ticket, waited patiently for hours in the airport, you are in your seat waiting to take off when the flight attendant asked you to leave the plane and all you want to do is get to your next destination whether it’s home, work or your next connecting flight.
Did You Know Airlines are Entitled to Remove People from Planes?
It happens all the time. There is a thing called Contracts of Carriage which gives the airlines the right to kick you off the plane if you are improperly dressed (i.e. the 2 girls who got barred from a United flight for wearing leggings.), belligerent, or drunk.
It’s a huge inconvenience, but here is what you need to know in case you’re ever caught in any of these situations.
Got Bumped Off the Plane? DON’T PANIC! Get Your Refund!
The first thing you need to do is breathe! No, seriously, breathe. As difficult as it is to not lose your cool, just remember, you can get paid for the inconvenience!! According to the Department of Transportation [DOT], you are entitled to the maximum compensation of up to $1350 and it must be paid in cash [NO VOUCHERS – I’ll get to this in a bit].
If you get to your destination later than your original scheduled arrival time, the airline owes you money!
For Domestic Flights [1-2 hours]: the airline owes you 200% of the one-way fare (up to $675).
For International Flights [More than 4 hours]: the airline owes you 400% of the one-way fare (up to $1350).
CAVEAT: If the airline can get you to your destination (include later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, then you are not entitled to compensation.
Get Paid in Cash, Not Vouchers
There are occasions when airlines offer passengers vouchers for involuntary bumps,
JUST SAY NO & ASK FOR CASH! It’s against regulation and they can get fined by the DOT. More importantly, vouchers expires within one year and there are blackout dates.
CAVEAT: Airlines are allowed to give passengers vouchers for voluntary bumps.
The Power of Negotiation
If the cost of being bumped exceeds what you were paid at the airport, you can negotiate a higher refund via the airline’s compliant department, according to the DOT.
CAVEAT: Once you cash the check or accept the free flight voucher, you lose your leverage to negotiate for higher compensation.
Get Paid When the Itinerary Changes
If your flight gets delayed, rescheduled or canceled and you need to rearrange your transportation, it can be a nightmare. Never fear, the airline must cover all expenses and fees to redirect you or refund you in full. It does not matter if you purchased a non-refundable ticket or were booked on a different carrier.
Get Paid for Lost Luggage
Airlines usually offer $50 for lost, delayed, or damaged checked-in luggage. DON’T SETTLE! Depending on the worth of your items, you can get compensated up to $3500 per passenger for liability on Domestic flights and $1675 per passenger on International flights.
CAVEAT: If the value of your property is worth less than the liability limit, you will be offered a lower amount.
Opt to Sleep at a Hotel instead of the Terminal
Airlines are required to offer free accommodations if you are stuck overnight involuntarily. When in doubt, ask for a hotel voucher (The only exception).
What to Do When You are Stuck on the Tarmac?
According to US Laws on Tarmac Delays:
After 2 hours, the airline must provide passengers with food, water, operational lavatories and medical care (medical care when needed).
After 3 hours in the US, passengers have the right to disembark from the plane.
After 4 hours outside of the US, passengers have the right to disembark from the plane.
Airlines must provide passengers with updates every 30 minutes.
CAVEAT: The rules do not apply if the pilot determines there is a reason to keep passengers on the plane, pertaining to safety or security and if air traffic control advises that taxiing to a place where passengers can disembark from the plane would disrupt airport operations.
According to European Laws on Tarmac Delays:
Passengers are eligible for compensation equally as a flight delay is eligible for compensation in Europe.
After 5 hours, passengers can disembark from the plane.
It is mandatory the plane provide air conditioning, lavatories and water.
When the airline is not compliant with the law, you have the right to:
Contact the airline via mail or email to register your complaint.
The airline has 60 days to respond to you.
If the airline does not respond or if you are unsatisfied with their response, you can register a complaint with the DOT.