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Delayed and Cancelled Flights

Mar 28, 2008
How can I avoid flight delays?

- Research the Airlines on-time ratings and use the Airline with the best rating.

- Keep up with the news and see if your Airline is facing any upcoming labor negotiations. If they are in negotiation near the time you are planning your trip, you might want to use another Airline in case yours has a work stoppage or slowdown.

- Avoid peak travel time.

- Check the weather conditions that are common along your route to see if you can plan your trip to avoid periods when foul weather causes delays.

- Fly nonstop or with the least amount of connections possible. Each time you land and take off you increase your chances to encounter delays.

- Take early morning flights. Early flights are less likely to be delayed and if they are delayed you will have more options remaining through out the day to complete your trip.

- Avoid the last flight of the day since a delay might force an overnight stay.

- If you fear you will suffer from a flight delay, consider using a paper ticket over an electronic ticket. If you need to transfer to another Airline to continue your trip, a paper ticket can save you time. Most Airlines are not yet able to transfer passengers flying on e-tickets without first taking the time to switch them to a paper ticket.

What should I do if my flight is delayed or canceled?

- If your flight is delayed or canceled, work with the Airlines counter personnel to book you on another flight. Being nice and working with the agent will often bring much better results than losing your temper.

- If there is a line at the counter, call the Airlines reservation center directly to book another flight instead of waiting in line for the few people available to help. See if they can guarantee you a seat on another flight.

- If you have another person traveling with you, spread out with one in line and the other on the phone. Try to stay within eyesight of each other in case one of you needs to wave the other one over. If you have a cell phone, call the Airline while you are standing in line and see who can help you first.

- See if others in your party belong to any premium clubs that will help to get you special consideration.

- Ask to be protected under the Airlines own written rules in the tickets conditions or contract of carriage for dealing with missed connections, delayed and canceled flights so you are given all the consideration you are legally due. This section of the contract is often called Rule 240, but no matter what it is called, they will have a section that specifically spells out what action they must take to help you continue your trip and what compensation you are due, if any.

The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that a copy of this contract be available to passengers at the Airlines ticket counter. Many Airlines also provide this information on their web sites so you might print it off and take it with you in case you need it.

Some Airline employees will try to tell you to that they no longer use Rule 240, but no matter what they call this section of their contract they still have to honor their written guidelines in the contract of carriage. These guidelines are part of the legal contract that deals with you. Both you and the Airline agreed upon these terms when they sold and you purchased their ticket. The Airline cannot choose to disregard part of a legal contract and enforce a different policy.

- If other Airlines are still operating, see if your Airline is willing to find you a seat on another Airline. Although, their contract may allow them some time to first find you a flight on their own Airline, most state that when they fail to do so, they will try to find you a seat with another Airline. Know that many Airlines limit your potential choices of other Airlines only with certain Airlines that have existing agreements with your Airline. Your option probably wont be to find any other flight at the airport that works. It will be to find another flight from a list of specific Airlines.

- The Airlines Rule 240 may state that, if you so choose, you are entitled to an involuntary refund for any unused portion of your ticket, even if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket.

- Rule 240 also specifies what, if any, other compensation you are due because of the flights delay or cancellation. The compensation due will usually vary depending on the reason for the flights delay or cancellation.

- If it looks like lots of people are going to be stuck for a long time, consider booking a hotel room and/or a rental car before everyone else grabs them all.

- Look into other practical forms of transportation such as trains, buses, or rental cars. The airport may close, but that does not necessarily mean the highways and railroads are impassible.

- Move quickly, a closed airport will mean that other forms of transportation and hotel rooms will sell out quickly.

- Update any future reservations with Airlines, hotels or rental cars that will be effected by your delay.

What type of compensation will I receive if my flight is delayed or canceled?

You may think a delayed or canceled flight will get you complimentary meals and a free hotel stay, but thats not always true. However, you can take some actions to make sure you are given all the assistance and compensation you are due.

- Being nice and working with the agent will often bring much better results than losing your temper. You can let them know you are upset without turning your anger toward them.

- You might have to rely on your negotiation skills to cover some expenses caused by the flights delay or cancellation. This is where being professional can help.

- Ask to be protected under the Airlines Rule 240, so you are given all the consideration you are legally due. Rule 240 refers to the Airlines own written rules in the tickets conditions or contract of carriage for dealing with missed connections, delayed and canceled flights. Rule 240 specifically spells out what action they must take to help you continue your trip and what compensation you are due, if any.

- The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that a copy of this contract must be made available to passengers at the Airlines ticket counter. Many Airlines also provide this information on their web sites so print it off and take it with you.

- Some Airline employees will try to tell you to that they no longer use Rule 240, but no matter what they call this section of their contract, they still have to honor their written guidelines in their contract of carriage. These guidelines are part of the legal contract that deals with you. Both you and the Airline agreed upon these terms when they sold and you purchased their ticket. The Airline cannot choose to disregard part of a legal contract and enforce a different policy.

- Most Airlines will first try to reschedule your flight or offer you coupons good toward future flights. However, many, although not all, Airlines "Rule 240" state that, if you so choose, you are entitled to an involuntary refund for any unused portion of your ticket if you decide not to travel on the rescheduled flight, even if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket.

- Its always a good idea to pay for your plane ticket with a credit card. It usually makes it easier and quicker for you to get your refund and, if the Airline gives you hard time about refunding your unused ticket, you can ask your credit card company about the possibility of a charge back.

- If the Airline requires you to mail in your unused ticket before they will issue a refund, be sure to make a copy of your ticket before you put it in the mail.

- "Rule 240" also specifies what, if any other compensation you are due because of the flights delay or cancellation.

- The compensation due will usually vary depending on the reason for the flights delay or cancellation. Compensation for delay will also vary depending on the amount of time that you were delayed.

- If the delay or cancellation is caused by issues beyond the control of the Airline, often referred to in a "Force Majeure" clause, any compensation you are due may be limited or eliminated.

- "Force Majeure" is a big catchall phrase that identifies many possible situations whether actual or threatened that cannot be foreseen by the Airlines and/or are beyond the control of the Airline. Many situations can qualify under "Force Majeure", but some that are often listed include, the weather, acts of God, government regulation, terrorism, wars, hostilities, security and safety concerns, strikes, work slowdowns, labor-related disputes, shortage of labor or fuel.

- Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation for an overnight stay in a hotel, meals, phone calls or other transportation costs. However, there are limits and restrictions on all these forms of compensations. Many Airlines will not pay for an overnight hotel stay at the origin point or destination of your flight and many even deny paying for a stay if your flight is stopped at an airport near your homes main airport.

- If you are late checking in, you may have waived your right to any compensation you are due, including your right to an involuntary refund.

- Keep all receipts for expenses caused by your delay or flight cancellation. No matter what their rules say, you can always make an appeal to the Airlines customer service department and you will want the receipts to back you up. Send your Airline copies of the receipts and keep the original receipts.

- Even though, your Airline may not be required to give compensation, they still may provide you with something to keep you a happy customer.
About the Author
Ranju Kumar is an assistant editor of TRAVEL-ENTERTAINMENT, is an "Under the Radar" Internet Entrepreneur who has been quietly selling various products from past 8 years.
Get more money-saving travel tips at TRAVEL-ENTERTAINMENT
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