Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Murphy"s law states that everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
But that
doesn"t mean airlines can leave you out to dry.
(Photo: iStock)Even novice
travelers know that it"s smart to plan for delays and crowded planes when
you"re flying.
What you never think to plan for is your cabin crew going on
strike.But that"s exactly what happened on Friday, when Lufthansa crew members
walked out of work at airports in the German cities of Frankfurt, Duesseldorf,
and Munich.As a result, the Associated Press reports that 929 flights were
canceled, leaving nearly 113,000 Lufthansa passengers stranded at the
airport.Surely the workers had their reasons for walking out, but it seems
almost cruel to leave those travelers high and dry.Which got us thinking: What
rights do passengers really have when everything that can go wrong does?For
answers, we referred to the Department of Transportation"(DOT), whose main job
is to make U.S.
travel safe and efficient."We also chatted with aviation
consumer expert Christopher Elliott,"who strongly believes that it"s important
for passengers to have their guard up while traveling."It"s always a good idea
to know your rights before you fly," he says.
"That way you don"t end up
paying for something that the airline should have taken care of."Here are your
rights in the following scenarios.The airline goes on strikeLufthansa cabin
crew protest during a strike at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, on
Nov.
9.
(Photo: AP)If an airline goes on strike, prepare to face some
obstacles.Once your flight is canceled, the airline is only obligated to get
you to your final destination.
According to the DOT, airlines are not required
to put you up in a hotel, cover meals, arrange substitute transportation on
other airlines, or refund the cost of other travel services.With all of the
stuff they won"t do, there is one thing they can"t say no to.
"If the airline
isn"t operating flights, you are entitled to an immediate refund.
Period,"
says Elliott.If you"d rather be rebooked than refunded, most airlines will
step up during these stressful times and attempt to help.
If they can"t get
you on a flight with their airline partners, they may endorse your ticket with
another carrier.
However, this is not required.
""Remember that in a strike
situation, you might be dealing with an agent who is fearful for their job, or
has a co-worker who walked out," reminds Elliott.
"Be kind to them, and they
might be more likely to help you out."Tip: Book flights with airlines that are
part of an alliance.
If they have partner airlines, it will increase the
likelihood of you getting rebooked faster.The airline goes out of businessYou
still have rights, even if an airline is no longer operating.
(Photo:
iStock)This might sound like an unlikely scenario, but since 1998, 30 airlines
have stopped operating or gone bankrupt.
The good news here is that passengers
are legally entitled to a refund for any flight that wasn"t
taken.Additionally, partner airlines might step up to honor tickets from a
bankrupt airline.
For instance, Aloha Airlines ceased operation in 2008, but
Hawaiian Airlines honored their passengers" tickets on a standby basis at no
additional charge.
Even so, airlines are not obligated to do this, so don"t
hold your breath.Tip: Purchase your plane tickets on a credit card.
This way,
if your airline goes kaput, the airfare will be refunded much quicker than if
you purchased it with cash.The plane is diverted because another passenger has
a meltdown
If an airline deems a situation "beyond its control," it isn"t
obligated to assist passengers.
(Photo: iStock)Every week there seems to be a
story about a passenger who freaks out in the air, causing the plane to be
diverted before reaching its final destination.
In many cases, the plane is
delayed, which means anyone who has a connecting flight faces the risk of
missing it.If your flight is diverted, how the airline reacts hinges on
responsibility and comes down to the rules in its contract of carriage.
Every
airline has a contract of carriage that outlines its rules and
regulations.
Airfare Watchdog has compiled a list of contracts for most of the
major domestic and international carriers.
If it is a mechanical issue, most
airlines will likely put you up in a hotel and give you a meal voucher until
you can be rebooked on another flight.
But if a flight is diverted because of
weather or an unruly passenger, the airline deems that as beyond its control
and is not required to provide alternative travel plans.Even so, Elliott says
that many airlines will take care of passengers even if they aren"t obligated
to.
"As a practical manner, airlines will help passengers because it"s the
right thing to do.
But it"s not in the contract of carriage."Related:"15
Passengers Kicked Off Planes in One Week — What"s Going On?You get
stuck on the tarmac for hoursAirlines face big penalties if they keep
passengers on the tarmac for too long.
(Photo: iStock)This is every
passenger"s nightmare.You board the plane with the assumption that takeoff is
imminent.
Instead, you spend the next couple of hours sitting on the tarmac
while the airline deals with a mechanical problem, incomplete paperwork, or
traffic on the runway.
Luckily, it"s illegal for passengers to be kept waiting
for too long.According to the DOT, an airline cannot keep you on a plane on a
tarmac for more than three hours on a domestic flight (four hours on an
international flight) without allowing you to get off if you
wish.
Additionally, after two hours, the airline has to give you food and
water, provide updates every 30 minutes, and insure that the lavatories are in
working order.As far as compensation is concerned, passengers don"t get
anything if an airline violates tarmac rules.
Instead, the DOT will fine the
airline, and the payout can be hefty."In January, the DOT fined Southwest
Airlines $1.6 million for failing to let off passengers on 16 delayed
flights," says Elliott.
"Since then, airlines have been following the rules
very closely."Tip: Fly-Rights is the DOT"s consumer guide for airline travel,
and it is easily accessible if you need a quick reminder of your
rights."You"re bumped because of spaceGetting bumped off of a plane is the
worst.
But getting compensation makes it sting a little less.
(Photo:
iStock)The truth is, most airlines overbook their flights — it"s not
illegal.
But in the instance that a flight is overbooked and a passenger
doesn"t volunteer to take a later flight, the airline has no choice but to
involuntarily bump someone off.While being told you can"t board would
certainly ruin your day, the DOT requires every airline to provide denied
boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash.But there are rules.If
the airline can get you to your destination within one hour of your scheduled
arrival, it doesn"t owe you anything.However, if the alternative travel plans
get you to your destination between one and two hours after your original
scheduled arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights),
the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200 percent of your one-way fare,
with a $675 maximum.If the substitute transportation gets you to your
destination more than two hours later than the original flight (four hours on
international flights), or if the airline does not make any substitute
arrangements, it must pay you an amount equal to 400 percent of your one-way
fare, with a $1,350 maximum.While getting involuntarily bumped isn"t common,
it does happen.
According to the DOT"s Air Travel Consumer Report, 13,363
passengers were involuntarily bumped from their flights between April and
June.
The biggest offender was Southwest Airlines, which involuntarily denied
boarding to 4,436 passengers during that period of time.Related:"Is Your
Luggage Lost? Here"s How to Get It Back — Fast! Your luggage is delayed
If your luggage doesn"t make it to its final destination, the airline has to
pay up.
(Photo: iStock)No matter what the airline tells you, you have rights
from the moment your luggage is misplaced."I"ve seen an airline actually hand
people cash for incidentals when their luggage was misplaced," said
Elliott.
"They can"t leave you high and dry."Each airline has different rules
regarding baggage outlined in its contract of carriage, and it usually asserts
a limit to the airline"s liability for delayed, lost, or damaged check
baggage.Across the board, on domestic trips the airline can invoke a liability
ceiling that is regulated by the DOT and adjusted for inflation every two
years.
That limit is currently $3,500 per passenger for lost baggage.On
international round trips that originate in the United States, the liability
limit is set by a treaty called the Montreal Convention.
The international
limit is worth about $1,675.WATCH: 5 Airport Hacks You"ve Never Heard Of (That
Work!)Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
"Watch World traveling club Travel"s original series "A Broad Abroad." Which
got us thinking: What rights do passengers really have when everything that
can go wrong does? For answers, we referred to the Department of
Transportation (DOT), whose main job is to make U.S.
travel safe and
efficient.  We also chatted with aviation consumer expert Christopher
Elliott, who strongly believes that it's important for passengers to have
their guard up while traveling.
"That way you don't end up paying for
something that the airline should have taken care of." Here are your rights
in the following scenarios.
The airline goes on strike Lufthansa cabin crew
protest during a strike at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, on
Nov.
9..Even so, Elliott says that many airlines will take care of passengers
even if they aren"t obligated to.
"As a practical manner, airlines will help
passengers because it"s the right thing to do.
But it"s not in the contract of
carriage."Related:"15 Passengers Kicked Off Planes in One Week — What"s
Going On?You get stuck on the tarmac for hoursAirlines face big penalties if
they keep passengers on the tarmac for too long.
(Photo: iStock)This is every
passenger"s nightmare.You board the plane with the assumption that takeoff is
imminent.
Instead, you spend the next couple of hours sitting on the tarmac
while the airline deals with a mechanical problem, incomplete paperwork, or
traffic on the runway.
Luckily, it"s illegal for passengers to be kept waiting
for too long.According to the DOT, an airline cannot keep you on a plane on a
tarmac for more than three hours on a domestic flight (four hours on an
international flight) without allowing you to get off if you
wish.
Additionally, after two hours, the airline has to give you food and
water, provide updates every 30 minutes, and insure that the lavatories are in
working order.As far as compensation is concerned, passengers don"t get
anything if an airline violates tarmac rules.
Instead, the DOT will fine the
airline, and the payout can be hefty."In January, the DOT fined Southwest
Airlines $1.6 million for failing to let off passengers on 16 delayed
flights," says Elliott.
"Since then, airlines have been following the rules
very closely."Tip: Fly-Rights is the DOT"s consumer guide for airline travel,
and it is easily accessible if you need a quick reminder of your
rights."You"re bumped because of spaceGetting bumped off of a plane is the
worst.
But getting compensation makes it sting a little less.
(Photo:
iStock)The truth is, most airlines overbook their flights — it"s not
illegal.
But in the instance that a flight is overbooked and a passenger
doesn"t volunteer to take a later flight, the airline has no choice but to
involuntarily bump someone off.While being told you can"t board would
certainly ruin your day, the DOT requires every airline to provide denied
boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash.But there are rules.If
the airline can get you to your destination within one hour of your scheduled
arrival, it doesn"t owe you anything.However, if the alternative travel plans
get you to your destination between one and two hours after your original
scheduled arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights),
the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200 percent of your one-way fare,
with a $675 maximum.If the substitute transportation gets you to your
destination more than two hours later than the original flight (four hours on
international flights), or if the airline does not make any substitute
arrangements, it must pay you an amount equal to 400 percent of your one-way
fare, with a $1,350 maximum.While getting involuntarily bumped isn"t common,
it does happen.
According to the DOT"s Air Travel Consumer Report, 13,363
passengers were involuntarily bumped from their flights between April and
June.
The biggest offender was Southwest Airlines, which involuntarily denied
boarding to 4,436 passengers during that period of time.Related:"Is Your
Luggage Lost? Here"s How to Get It Back — Fast! Your luggage is delayed
If your luggage doesn"t make it to its final destination, the airline has to
pay up.
(Photo: iStock)No matter what the airline tells you, you have rights
from the moment your luggage is misplaced."I"ve seen an airline actually hand
people cash for incidentals when their luggage was misplaced," said
Elliott.
"They can"t leave you high and dry."Each airline has different rules
regarding baggage outlined in its contract of carriage, and it usually asserts
a limit to the airline"s liability for delayed, lost, or damaged check
baggage.Across the board, on domestic trips the airline can invoke a liability
ceiling that is regulated by the DOT and adjusted for inflation every two
years.
That limit is currently $3,500 per passenger for lost baggage.On
international round trips that originate in the United States, the liability
limit is set by a treaty called the Montreal Convention.
The international
limit is worth about $1,675.WATCH: 5 Airport Hacks You"ve Never Heard Of (That
Work!)Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
"Watch World traveling club Travel"s original series "A Broad Abroad." Which
got us thinking: What rights do passengers really have when everything that
can go wrong does? For answers, we referred to the Department of
Transportation (DOT), whose main job is to make U.S.
travel safe and
efficient.  We also chatted with aviation consumer expert Christopher
Elliott, who strongly believes that it's important for passengers to have
their guard up while traveling.
"That way you don't end up paying for
something that the airline should have taken care of." Here are your rights
in the following scenarios.
The airline goes on strike Lufthansa cabin crew
protest during a strike at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Nov.
9.

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