Dealing with Flight Delays and Cancellations
February 22, 2010 | Permalink
Have you heard of “Rule 240?” Let me ask this another way. Have you wondered what your rights are if your flight is cancelled or delayed? Back when the airlines were under government regulation, Rule 240 was the regulation governing when and how passengers are compensated for flight delays and cancellations.
Since the 1978 airline deregulation, the government no longer dictates one rule on this subject. Instead, each airline develops its own policies. The regulators are not completely out of this process, however, since major airlines must still file “conditions of carriage” with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Included in these “conditions” are the airlines’ policies for compensating delayed passengers.
Knowing how the “conditions” impact you can be very important to business travelers and anyone who travels a great deal.
First, know the rules of your airline. The website Hospitality 1st lists most of the domestic airlines with a link to their “Rule 240” policies. The linked documents vary in size from a few paragraphs to almost 40 pages of text. Some airlines refer to these as their “Contract of Carriage.” Either copy this to your laptop computer or print the pertinent sections and carry them with you. Even though airlines are required to have copies of their Rule 240 at the ticket counter, you can’t always count on it.
In reading the policies, look for exclusions to airline liability, like weather, strikes or so-called “acts of God.” One legal term you might look for covering unforeseen circumstances is “force majeure.” How this is applied varies from carrier to carrier, so read this carefully. Focus on what is important to you. For example, will they book you on another flight or airline? Do they provide meal vouchers or hotel accommodations?
Once armed with this information, you are in a good position to assert your rights. When speaking with the ticket agent, remain calm, but be firm. Yelling never helps. Being able to quote directly from the company policy shows that you know your rights.
As with any conflict situation, document what happened. As soon as possible after you’ve spoken with an airline representative, write down a summary of the conversation, including the person’s name and position.
If you are not satisfied with the resolution, ask to speak with a supervisor. Be sure you get the name and email address for the airline company executive that is in charge of customer service. As soon as you have collected your thoughts on the issue, email this person, calmly describing the situation and, if possible, making a specific request. For example, if you believe you were entitled to a meal or hotel voucher, ask for this. Don’t make outrageous demands, no matter how angry you are.
No matter what sort of flight you might have, a large, inviting hotel room is always a welcome sight. Extended Stay Hotels delivers comfortable, affordable accommodations at all its 700 locations. And don’t worry. If your flight is cancelled, in most cases your Extended Stay Hotels reservations can be cancelled without charge until 6:00 pm on your day of arrival.
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