Involuntary Reroute in the Modern Age

By | April 6, 2007

The Consumerist, of which we are an avid reader, posted on the subject of Rule 240…however, we felt their post was somewhat brief on what Rule 240 meant, and decided to revisit the issue. We approached it in a post in September.

To reiterate, Rule 240 has no power post-deregulation. Deregulation occurred in 1978. Many US airlines have kept it in their Contract of Carriage as 240, and others have different numbers for it, but airline employees still know the term however.

Various organizations that airlines belong to have their versions of such rules that they subscribe to.

  • ATA(Air Transport Association) – ATA is the oldest and largest airline trade association in the US and has its own provision for this situation – Each airline will notify customers at the airport and onboard the aircraft in a timely manner of the best available information regarding known delays, cancellations, and diversions. In addition, each airline will establish and implement policies accomodating passengers delayed overnight. A clear and concise statement of airlines’ policies in these respects will also be made available to customers. ATA also has a legacy rule, Rule 120.20, which refers to the endorsement of a ticket at face value over to another carrier. In the old days it was hand written into the endorsement box on paper tickets. In this modern world, with eticketing, the carriers have prevented much of this.
  • IATA – The International Air Transport Association – most carriers are members of IATA, and are subject to Rule 735D, which specifies:
    • The following circumstances shall justify an involuntary change of carrier, routing, class of service: a Member cancels a flight; a member fails to operate a flight reasonably in accordance with schedule; a Member fails to stop at a point to which the passenger is destined or is ticketed to stop over; a Member is unable to provide previously confirmed space; a Member causes a passenger to miss a connecting flight on which he holds a reservation…
    • In the foregoing circumstance, the Member, will all due consideration to the passenger’s reasonable interests shall: arrange for involuntary refund in accordance with Resolution 737; provide onward carriage with the least amount of delay or inconvenience to the destination or point of stopover named on the ticket, if necessary at a higher cost and without additional charge to the passenger on the same or another of its own aircraft, on any other transportation services.
    • Provided the Member has observed all of the provisions of this resolution, the new carrier shall accept the flight coupon(ticket) presented for “Involuntary Rerouting” irrespective of the fare entered on it.
    • The carrier responsible for the condition which creates a need for an involuntary change in a passenger’s journey shall be responsible for all passenger’s expenses as may be incurred during the period of the passenger’s delay at the place where the involuntary change occurred, and may absorb such expenses at subsequent points en route where they are limited to essential expenses such as hotel room, suitable meals, and beverages without regard to class of service, ground transportation, transit taxes, and reasonable communications costs necessarily incurred by the passenger because of the change.

The Consumerist article does contain a summary of the relevant contract of carriage section of various US airlines. We recommend you review the Contract of Carriage before travel, and perhaps even keep a printed copy of the relevant page in your bag as a negotiating tool. They are supposed to have them at the counter, but we challenge you to actually get one from a representitive of the airline.

Finally, airlines do deny responsibility for circumstances beyond their control…however…using legal papers, reference documents, and carefully constructed arguments…you may be able to cut through the red tape. An airline may not accept responsibility for a force majeure event(ie weather), but as Jetblue mentions in their recent Customer Bill of Rights, they can be responsible for their reactions to force majeure situations…ie if there is a three-day backup on one airline to get out, but empty seats on another…if they had empty seats in first class…etc.

The key is the right argument. You may be angry, tired, cranky…but abusing the staff instead of constructing an argument has a smaller chance of succeeding. On the other hand, they may give you what you want to get rid of you.

Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.