Help Desk FAQ

Travel

 

Can I get damages when my flight is delayed?

Airlines have to let you know promptly if your flight will be delayed more than 30 minutes. Beyond that, every airline sets its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers at the airport; there are no federal requirements. You can find an airline's policies listed in its "contracts of carriage."

An airline might provide things like meal vouchers and, for overnight delays, free hotel accommodations, but the law doesn't mandate compensation for delayed domestic flights. On certain international flights, however, airlines are liable for damages unless the airline can prove it did everything possible to prevent the repercussions of the delay or that there was nothing it could do (for example, a delay due to bad weather or a workers' strike). AirHelp outlines the compensation for international flight disruptions in general and EU flight delays.

If you foresee a lengthy delay, you can try to arrange another flight with the same airline. This is typically easier done by phone than at the service desk in the airport. Confirm that you won't be charged a cancellation or change fee or have to pay a higher fare.

If you find a flight on another airline and you would like to switch, ask the airline where you hold a ticket if it can arrange to transfer your ticket to a different carrier. The law doesn't require the airline to do this, but it might make the switch to keep you happy.

Delays don't always happen before you get on the plane. If you're stuck on the tarmac (runway) and you're on a domestic flight, the DOT requires airlines to let passengers get off in no more than three hours (domestic) or four hours (international) unless there's a safety, security or "airport operations" reason why the plane can't taxi to the gate and unload. Airlines also have to provide passengers with food and water no later than two hours after the tarmac delay begins, and bathrooms must remain available. However, if you get off the plane during a tarmac delay, the airline isn't required to let you back on, and it isn't required to offload your checked baggage before taking off without you!

Learn more about airline passenger rights in the Fall 2018 issue of Consumer Action News.

 

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