Our contribution to the Passport Awareness Month continues. Last week was about passport tips you shouldn’t neglect. This time, let’s focus on air passenger rights and protections you should know and reinforce if needed. We will provide plenty of governmental resources again to help you out.
Do you know the frustration of delayed suitcases? I do. My buddy survived 48 hours in Mexico with the same clothes waiting for his bags to arrive. And then it was my turn, on our way back to the US. Imagine starting off the year frustrated. So I did a little research into air passengerrights and figured out that most of us don’t claim half the perks we merit, most of which add up in dollars. Here are some of the air passenger rights I wish I had known last December and that you should never forget.
1. Do the research
The first thing you want to do before even buying the ticket is to know the air passenger rights. You also want to get the latest updates in air traveler protection from the Department of Transport themselves. From there, you can start your booking process, better armed than I was a year ago. For starters, as an air passenger, you have the right to:
- Your money back on the spot in case of bumped or canceled flights. Not travel discounts or vouchers. More about that below;
- Hold an airfare for 24 hours without extra charges or fees;
- Monetary compensation for delayed or lost luggage as cash advance or reimbursement;
- Cancel your flight altogether and request full refunds if your flight is severely delayed, even on “non-refundable” fares.
- Expect travel agents and airlines to disclose all extra fees. Travel agents must also be transparent about the way they rank airfares flights on their websites.
2. Full disclosure of extra fees
Airlines must disclose real costs of add-on fees; you know, the ones that raise ticket prices and hurt you. That is why you need to do the research, on the airlines websites, consumer review pages, etc. Airfare Watchdog gives a great overview of such fees but I recommend asking your fare providers. It is your air passenger right, after all.
3. Lock in a fare free of charge
Given that you are dealing directly with an airline company, you can lock in a price and reserve an airfare without spending a dime. That is one perk you should welcome in a world of urgency and constant ticket price change. If you find an interesting price, call the airline and lock it in for 24 hours free. That should give you time to think things over and decide if you want to book or not. Our friend Erica from Map Happy, shows you how to lock it for 48 hours without a sweat.
4. Air passenger rights inside a plane
Are you on a plane stranded on a tarmac? It is your air passenger right to disembark if the wait last more than 3 hours on domestic flights and 4, on internationals. Meanwhile, your airline company must provide water and restrooms access.
5. Money back if you can’t fly
Now get the good stuff, where you ask for refund and money-back, so pay close attention. For canceled or bumped flights, you are illegible to up to $800 for delays of less than 2 hours and up to $1,300 if longer. This is to discourage those airline that practice an overbooking strategy at the expense of travelers like you and me. Also don’t settle for vouchers or such things if you don’t want to. You can ask for cash back and most people will recommend you exercise that air passenger right.
6. Dealing with delayed and lost luggage
Should you and your luggage not connect at your destination, the DoT advises to:
- Ask airline personnel to create a report and give you a copy. Do that even if your suitcase is on the next flight and before leaving the airport.
- Get an appropriate phone number for following up, which is not the Reservations number.
- ASK the personnel for reimbursement policies. In general, airlines provide cash back or advance, to a certain amount, for expenses due to their mishandling.
- However, per Airfare Watchdog, you are entitled to monetary compensation up to $3,300 on domestic flights, $1,500 on international.
7. In case of injustice!
If you sense any form of mistreatment in the way your airline handles your luggage, speak out! Remember that the DoT is adopting consumer-centric policies and has channels to file complaints. And to show that your feedback matters, they publish consumer reports on airlines. You can also reach out to air consumer advocacy groups like Flyer’s Rights. They have hotlines, work to uphold air passenger rights, and are ready to stand by you. You are not alone.
After my Christmas trip, I waited more than 3 days to retrieve my suitcase. That is $3,000 wasted with including the little things I had to buy meanwhile. The Holidays are closing in. Be ready. An informed traveler is a happier traveler.