Airline Passenger Rights

On CNN News this morning there was a story about several planes in Maine, who had planes full of international passengers who were made to sit on the tarmac for over 7 hours, some over 8 hours. Some passengers were told they couldn’t get off the plane because all the custom agents had gone home, while other passengers were told nothing at all. Once they were off the planes for some reason which was not explained to anybody, they couldn’t get their luggage. Which if you have ever flown internationally you know you need your luggage before you can go through customs, so they passengers were now stuck in the luggage claim area.

What a complete and frustrating nightmare. So do these passengers have any rights?

No matter what time of year you travel, weather can be an issue. I have flown in the summer time and still ran into weather issues and while bad weather isn’t the fault of the airlines, you still may be able to get some compensation.

Each airline has what is called a “contract of carriage” which will be posted on their website. Whenever you fly you should at least read through your airline’s contract. Better yet, print it out and take it with you. Since each airline has their own contracts they can all be different.

Some airlines such as Jet Blue, has created their own passenger bill of rights which promises passengers will not be stuck on a plane for more then 5 hours and that passengers will be compensated with vouchers if a flight is delayed more then 1 hour.
When it comes to international flights, its a little different. international passengers rights passengers can find their rights at Air Transport Portal:

Air passengers Rights leaflet international
http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/doc/2008_apr_leaflet/apr_leaflet_en.pdf

This booklet states:

Denied Boarding
You may be entitled to compensation between € 125
and € 600 depending on flight distance and the
delays incurred when rerouted.

Long delays
You may request a refund of your ticket if the delay
exceeds five hours, but only if you decide not
to travel.

Cancellation
Financial compensation is due unless you were
informed 14 days before the flight, or you were
rerouted close to your original times, or the airline
can prove that the cancellation was caused by
extraordinary circumstances.

Assistance by airlines
Depending on the circumstances, if you are denied
boarding or your flight is cancelled or delayed,
you may be entitled to receive assistance (catering,
communications, and an overnight stay if necessary).
In the event of denied boarding or cancellation, you
may be offered the option of continuing your trip or a
refund of your ticket.

For Canadian Passengers:
Canada: Transport Canada Website
http://www.tc.gc.ca/flightrights/menu.htm

Airline’s Contract of Carriage
Delta
http://www.delta.com/legal/contract_of_carriage/index.jsp

American Airlines
http://www.aa.com/i18n/customerService/customerCommitment/conditionsOfCarriage.jsp

United
http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,2671,00.html

Continental
http://www.continental.com/web/en-us/content/contract.aspx

Jet Blue
http://www.jetblue.com/p/jetblue_coc.pdf

Alaska Air
http://www.alaskaair.com/as/www2/company/tariff/tariff_main_toc.asp

US Air
http://www.usairways.com/en-UK/travel_information/customers_first/carriage1.html

Virgin Atlantic
http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/gb/bookflightsandmore/conditionsofcarriage/index.jsp

British Airways
http://www.britishairways.com/travel/genconcarr1/public/en_us

If you want t to help lobby for a passengers bill of rights go to www.flyersrights.org and see what you can do to help. They also have a toll free number you can help for help and advise. Its good to keep this number handy when traveling so if you run into a situation you can call and find out what you can do about it and what your rights are.