Leaving You High and Dry…Bumped

By | July 20, 2009
Northwest Airlines ticket counter.
Image via Wikipedia

About two weeks ago, The Department of Transportation fined Delta Air Lines $375,000 for failing to follow the proper procedures for bumping passengers from flights. The problem is that most people don’t know what their rights are, and Delta failed to ensure they did, which is to their advantage.

Did you know that you do not have to take vouchers for future travel from an airline? If you are bumped and the airline arranges substitute transportation to your destination scheduled to arrive between one and two hours of your original time, you must be given an amount equal to your one-way fare with a $400 maximum. If this grows to over two hours, four internationally, it goes to 200% of your fare, with a maximum of $800. Airlines may offer free transportation on future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily you have the right to insist on a check. You can also try to negotiate for additional compensation with the airline later, if you feel it is due.

Flights are fuller than ever, and airlines are cutting capacity. Even with the current limits, which were increased last year for the first time since 1979, compensation is woefully inadequate to compensate for the expenses incurred when an airline strands a passenger not for hours, but for days…a situation that current rules do not cover.

Even when they are liable, airlines are not known for easily paying out compensation. Make sure you:

  • Know your rights
  • Print out the airline’s contract of carriage, a copy of the DOT Consumer Right’s guide, and another other tools that might help you.
  • Take Notes. Remember names and details, ask the airline to document their records as well. You may need this later if you want to request extra compensation
  • Remain calm. It is said the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but don’t jump the gun in squeaking. Remember, the agent is not always your enemy.

Take a deep breath. You are not alone.