Know Your Air Travel Rights
To the reader that asked what are my rights if the airline bumps me from my flight?
First off let’s define the term bumping. This is name given to the procedure for declining to board a reserved seat passenger on an overbooked flight. This occurs when a passenger is unable to travel because other passengers have been given higher priority to travel. The term is used largely with respect to airline travel and an overbooking situation.
The airlines publish a boarding priority list and this should be available for you to examine at the airport. Remember the airline personnel will not readily volunteer this information. You will have to ask for it, and unfortunately sometimes more than once. If you feel that the customer service agent is giving you the run around ask for a supervisor. Once you invoke this request airline issues are generally rapidly addressed.
Now let’s talk more on what happens if the airline declines to board (bumps) you. The Department of Transportation requires each airline to give all involuntarily bumped passengers a written statement of their rights along with an explanation of the carrier’s policy on overbooked flights. Bumped passengers may be entitled to an on-the-spot payment of denied boarding compensation based on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay. However, the airline may give no compensation if it arranges a substitute flight which arrives within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time. This substituted air travel can be on the one that you are ticketed on or any other carrier that services your destination. If there is any difference in the fare that you paid and the one on the substitute transportation, the bumping airline absorbs the cost not you the traveler. The airlines are not excited about paying for alternative flights so airport service personnel are trained only to offer this type of solution in extreme instances. By knowing your rights and ASKING for them will often solve your service situation.
If the domestic airline arranged flight is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time, or on international flights one and four hours, the compensation may be up to a $200.
The material already discussed involves involuntary bumping, the situation when the airline will not allow you board the aircraft. Another category you may experience is termed” voluntary” bumping. This procedure occurs when the flight is oversold and the airline is looking for volunteers to give up their seats on their scheduled flights and be re-accommodated on other flights. Not only will you be offered a substitute flight schedule but frequently the carriers will offer you free flights, monetary value travel coupons, meal vouchers even lodging. On one trip I volunteered to get bumped and had my vacation extended by one day. The carrier flew me in first class the next day, picked up the tab for my meals and hotel plus gave me a $500.00 voucher good for travel on them within the next. Not a bad deal from my window seat! If you find yourself in a similar situation I suggest opting for the cash value instead of the free ticket. The free ticket often comes with too many restrictions and can basically be unredeemable. I’ve seen a free ticket for a voluntarily bumped passenger come with requirements that you can only book your flight 3 days before you travel and in a very restrictive fare category while the cash voucher can be applied to the value of any ticket purchased. And if you have any remaining balance on your cash amount then the carrier will issue you another credit voucher.
Ok the moral here is know your travel rights and do not be afraid to speak up and ask that they be respected. I’ll talk more about your rights as a traveler in the future or you may be interested in enrolling in a “travel law” course that we are offering this spring at Ohio University Southern.