Holiday air travel? Know your passenger ‘flight rights’

By Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Whether it’s O’Hare, Midway, or Quad City, Illinois airports will be bustling this week with folks catching flights to their Thanksgiving destinations. While the thought of delays or cancellations may be stressful, airline passengers can take comfort in knowing they have some protections under the law.

Photo credit: Maksim/Wikimedia.  Airline travelers may encounter busy Illinois airports this week, but they have some basic legal rights as passengers in the event of a cancellation, delay, or lost luggage.

Photo credit: Maksim | Wikimedia.
Airline travelers may encounter busy Illinois airports this week, but they have some basic legal rights as passengers in the event of a cancellation, delay, or lost luggage.

Abe Scarr, director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group, says most people don’t fly often and may be unaware of their rights as a passenger.

“Whether it’s the right to be reimbursed if you’re bumped, or if there’s something wrong with your baggage,” Scarr says. “Or simply the right to complain, which actually has a lot of power to it, just by complaining to the airline and to the Department of Transportation. ”

For overbooked flights, he says there is no amount of mandated compensation for those who volunteer to be bumped, but airlines typically negotiate with passengers willing to take a later flight. For those involuntarily bumped, Scarr says if the flight is not re-booked within one to two hours, a passenger is owed 200 percent of the one-way fare, up to $650.

Scarr says passengers also have rights when it comes to their lost luggage.

“If your bag is just simply delayed, the airlines are required to reimburse you for reasonable expenses, such as toiletries or a change of clothes,” he says. “If they lose your bags, they’re required to refund any checked baggage fees, and reimburse you for the lost items up to $3,400.”

Scarr adds, while tarmac delays were a big problem several years ago, rules adopted in 2009 and 2011 now prevent passengers from being parked on planes for hours and hours.

“Basically, if you’re stuck on the tarmac over a period of time, the airline is required to give you food and water and medical attention,” he says. “After three hours, they either have to return you to the airport or be in the air.”

Airlines are required to provide information about how to file complaints, and must respond to a complaint within 60 days. According to Triple-A, Thanksgiving air travel is expected to be at its highest level since 2007, with over 3.5 million people flying to their destinations. – See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2014-11-24/consumer-issues/holiday-air-travel-know-your-passenger-flight-rights/a43037-1#sthash.of0U2xuG.dpuf

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