6 Airline Rules and Regulations You Need to Know
Traveling can be stressful enough as it is. After you’ve packed your suitcases, arranged for child and/or pet care, confirmed your hotel stays, and triple checked your travel documents, there are still no guarantees that your trip will go smoothly, especially when it comes to airlines.
Unfortunately, travelers are often uninformed about the rights they have regarding their booked flights, and so when something goes wrong, they don’t get the compensation or services they’re entitled to. Airline passengers are at the mercy of delays, cancellations and flight changes, but there are also certain obligations airlines must follow when these events occur. In other words, you’re not doomed to figure out (and pay for) your own way home just because your airline was having a bad day. The best approach is to know about your rights ahead of time, so you can be prepared to state your case in the event of a cancellation or delay.
Here is a list of 6 airline rules and regulations you should know about before traveling. This list specifically applies to flights that depart from an airport within the European Union (EU), or flights that arrive in the EU via an EU airline. These rules also apply to EU airlines whose flights originate in Switzerland, Iceland or Norway. If you plan on traveling within this region anytime soon, arm yourself with this knowledge before you go.
1. Alternative Transport or Refund Option
Scenario 1: Your airline has cancelled the flight you were supposed to be on.
Scenario 2: Your airline overbooked the flight, and there were no seats available.
So, are you just stuck in the airport, and out some serious money now? No.
Airline rules require that you be offered either alternate transportation to your final destination, OR a full refund of your ticket price. Either way, it is not your problem to figure out how to get you to where you’re going - it’s the airline’s responsibility to make it right.
If you do choose to go with the refund option, you are also entitled to free transportation back to your starting point. This is especially important if you were trying to connect through the current airport, but are unable to proceed from there after your flight was cancelled. They can’t leave you in limbo between your home and your destination.
2. Extended Delays
Scenario: Your flight is delayed by 5 hours (or longer!)
Short flight delays are bound to happen from time to time, but an extended flight delay can become a real problem. If you are trying to connect to another flight, a delay of 5 hours or more would almost certainly cause you to miss your next flight. Of course, even if you are not connecting, a delay of this magnitude is a massive inconvenience.
When this happens, you are eligible for a refund of your ticket price if you no longer wish to travel. Just be aware that if you do opt for the refund over waiting around for your flight to finally depart, the airline is NOT required to help you further. This means that any hotel or travel arrangements you choose to make after receiving the refund will be at your own discretion.
3. Informed Status
Scenario: You are told that your flight is delayed, but need more info in order to make an informed decision.
Seeing the word “delayed” next to your flight number doesn’t give you the whole story, and it’s the duty of the airlines to make sure you get all the information you need.
For any flights that will be delayed longer than 2 hours, airline agents must keep passengers informed about their flight status, as well as any rules and regulations regarding this delay. Some longer distance flights have more leeway, and may not be required to update passengers as early in the delay. Typically flights covering more than 3500 kilometers (2175 miles) may have up to 4 hours before this rule kicks in.
4. Food, Lodging and Other Accommodations
Scenario: Your flight is experiencing a long delay. You’re hungry, tired, and less than thrilled about having to take up residence on an airport chair until the following day.
Don’t assume you’re stuck at the airport! Depending on the length of your delay and the distance you are traveling, you may be entitled to meals, refreshments, and even overnight accommodations at a nearby hotel. Longer delays and longer flights are prioritized, but it is always in your best interest to ask.
Be sure to ask about free phone calls as well. If you haven’t activated an international calling plan, or just don’t want to burn roaming minutes on your cell phone, you may be able to make some phone calls from the airport at no charge. This is essential, especially if you need to inform people at your destination about your delay.
5. Financial Compensation
Scenario: Time is money, and your delayed flight is directly interfering with your job, or causing you to rack up unnecessary expenses.
If your flight to your final destination (as indicated on your ticket) is delayed by more than 3 hours, or is cancelled outright, you may be eligible for monetary compensation. Typically, the amount paid to passengers is in line with the distance of your flight, with the longest flights receiving the highest payout. You can expect to receive somewhere between EUR 250 and 600, depending on the length of your delay and the distance you need to travel.
6. Circumstances Ineligible for Compensation
While it is always great for passengers to be aware of their rights, and to make sure they are getting the compensation they deserve, there are a few circumstances in which you are not eligible for extra assistance through your airline.
Scenario 1: Your flight is cancelled or delayed due to a storm or inclement weather.
Scenario 2: Your original flight was cancelled or changed, but the airline offered you a similar flight to get you where you originally intended to go.
In each of these 2 scenarios, the airline either was not directly responsible for the delay, or took steps to correct the situation in plenty of time. As a result, passengers are not entitled to refunds, accommodations, food vouchers, and the like.
Traveling by airline has many benefits, but also the occasional headache. By knowing your rights ahead of time, you can hold your airline accountable for delays, cancellations and other inconveniences that may spring up along the way. Keep these rules in mind the next time you fly, and rest easier knowing that you have certain rights and protections in place as a passenger.
About Joanna Medina
Born and raised in San Diego, California. I am a writer, dreamer, traveler and all around Truth seeker. I have a passion and desire to help others and truly enjoy seeing people thrive. I have been partnering with Flightbucks since January, 2016 to educate travelers about their rights and have the added perk of sharing travel insights through our blog.