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The Travel Professor
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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Airline Rule 240: Don't Leave Home Without It!

Due to a recent slew of airline delays, cancellations, and missed connections I thought I’d review a little know rule known to the airlines as Rule 240.

Before airline deregulation in 1978, Rule 240 was literally a federal requirement. Nowadays, it's a term describing what individual airlines will do for late or stranded passengers. In fact, the major airlines have filed "conditions of carriage" with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) guaranteeing their respective Rule 240s.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, or if you've missed your flight connection, these policies may give you free meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, phone calls, and other amenities. You may be booked on a substitute flight -- even on another airline -- and you may be compensated or given a full refund if the flight problems persist.

How can you use Rule 240 to protect your rights? Always carry a printed copy of your airline's Rule 240. Though the DOT requires airlines to keep a Rule 240 copy available for passengers at every ticket counter, don't count on that.

Read Rule 240 carefully before you use it. Many airline ticket agents do not know these policies, so you should be the expert. If they are aware of Rule 240 many will feign ignorance and attempt to give you the run around. Be polite but very firm about your rights under Rule 240. You'll win most battles at ticket counters when you say the phrase "Rule 240" and show the agent your printed copy of the airline's policies. However, don't hesitate to keep going up the chain to supervisors if you're not satisfied. Sometimes, airlines will even go beyond Rule 240 requirements in the name of customer service.

For example, Rule 240s generally apply only to delays that are absolutely the airline's fault, such as mechanical delays or one that I frequently encounter-we are waiting on a flight crew.

Rule 240 does not apply to what the airlines call "force majeure" events: weather, strikes, "acts of God," or other occurrences that the airlines say they cannot control.

Browse your airline’s website and look for their “customer bill of rights” posting. Again read this information and become familiar with these policies. Having a print out of your passenger is not a bad idea as you can refer to it if you experience any flight irregularities. As always being informed traveler make you a better traveler.