What’s the Ho-Ho-Holdup? A Primer on Airline Passengers’ Rights

Getting home for the holidays has always been a bit of a pain; so much so that it spawned multiple Christmas songs and terrible movies. For many real and imagined nightmares before Christmas, the role of the Grinch is played by the airline industry, who in the past, have created holiday havoc by cancelling and overbooking flights.

Fear not, however. Thanks to the recently amended Passengers’ Bill of Rights, there is now a great financial disincentive for creating preventable holiday holdups. Examples of those who have incurred the Department of Transportation’s wrath include American Eagle, fined $900,000 last year for keeping passengers stranded on the ground, awaiting takeoff, for more three hours, and JetBlue, who coughed up $90,000 in August for not reminding passengers of their right to deplane a delayed flight.

The amendments include the following protections, according to PBS:

Lost Bag Refunds
This is the worst case scenario. You show up on vacation and have nothing. While you may have to fight to be reimbursed for the contents of your suitcase, the new rule prevents the addition of insult to injury by requiring a refund of luggage fees for lost bags. Previously, you’d still be on the hook for the $25 luggage fee, even if your bag ended up in Moscow while you were in New York.

Fee Transparency
It started with meal fees. Then airlines added bag fees, cancelation and change fees, and coming soon, oxygen fees. The fees were, in many cases, adding hundreds of dollars to families’ ticket prices. At least now, airlines must explicitly disclose any possible fees, making budgeting much easier.

Compensation for “Bumping”
Second only to losing your luggage is the feeling that comes when you are bumped because the airline “accidently” oversold the flight. When this happens, you must be compensated at twice the ticket price, or $650, for short delays and four times the ticket price, or $1,300 for long delays.

Change Fee Grace Period
Need to change your arrival time? The new rules state that you have twenty-four hours to make any changes … fee free.

Timely Communication
Whether the flight is delayed, bumped, or cancelled, the airline is required to notify and regularly update the passengers. This can be done at the gate, online, or via cell phone.

No More Indefinite Tarmac Holds
A few years ago, multiple flights were held on the tarmac for over ten hours during a blizzard. The planes weren’t returned to the terminals. The passengers were stuck on a grounded plane. Now, if the delay is going to last longer then three hours, the plane should return to the terminal, allow passengers the option of deplaning, and provide food, water, and bathroom access.

Holiday travel is stressful enough. There are lines that last hours, cancer-causing scanners, and TSA agents — you know what that means. Armed with these rules, you should at least be able to deal with any unexpected delays.

Related Resources

Taken from:
What’s the Ho-Ho-Holdup? A Primer on Airline Passengers’ Rights