So, you have been stuck on the plane for 5 hours, sitting on the tarmac waiting for the weather to clear at your destination. It’s already been a 12 hour flight. The airline has provided no food or water and you can't get off because the temporary stop has no customs. What are your rights as a passenger?
This topic will look at what you as a passenger can do when things don't quite go as planned.
Well recent event in 2010 when most of Europe was shut down because of volcanic ash. There found a need to improve customer service when dealing with event outside of the control of the airlines. There also comes a change that the airlines must be forthcoming with this information because they had a tendency to hide it.
Listed are some of the situations that passengers may find themselves facing:
Whenever you have booked a flight you will hopefully receive confirmation that you have been booked for that flight. This is the most valuable piece of paper when it comes to checking in for your flight. With this information the airline must honour any ticket that is presented in front of them even if the passenger's detail or reservation does not show on their computer system. This is however limitations to this. For example, if the passenger does not show up for the first flight and is deemed a 'no show', the airline then has the right to refuse entry to any subsequent or return flights.
Almost every passenger has gone through some form of delay when travelling by air or at least know someone that has gone through this experience. The simple fact of the matter is there are some things that out of the control of anyone. Whether the delay be because of weather or maintenance or another reason there are a few rights that now has.
Delay definition (according to EU Regulations):
An aircraft is deemed delayed if the aircraft is:
for flights over 3,500km, over 4 hours scheduled departure time
for flights between 1,500km and 3,500km, over 3 hours scheduled departure time
or for flights up to 1,500km, over 2 hours scheduled departure time
If a passenger is delayed, then the airline must provide the passenger with 'care'. This means the airline is to provide the passenger with basic needs and accommodation1. Each airline has its own definition. But it must be at least two free phone calls, faxes or emails and free meals and drinks2.
If the flight is delayed for more than 5 hours, the airline can refund the ticket within certain conditions.
Overbooking / Bumping
It is a well known practice that airline will overbook their flights. This, for them, is the most effective way to fill an aircraft. However, occasionally people will actually show up for their flights and this can lead to a situation where there are more passengers than seats. The airline does have ways to deal with this.
The first instance the airline will ask if anyone will give up their seats and allow the airline to ‘bump’ them on to another flight. If passengers agree then they are often given a reward. These are usually vouchers with the airline (they still keep your business).
If there are still not enough seats then the airline will deny boarding to certain passengers. These passengers will be the least important to the airline.
The passengers who are bumped can either ask for a full refund or be put on a later flight. The airline must ensure that the passenger is adequately looked after until the time of the next flight.
If your flight is deemed as cancelled then the passenger is entitled to the above (Delay flights) and also a refund on the flight or transfer the flight to another time.
However, there is a catch that passengers must be aware of. These opportunities are only available if the flight was NOT cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances.
The next question that most people ask is what does that mean. Well the answer isn’t so simple.
There is no clear definition in the EU regulations that define 'extraordinary circumstances’ and many other places have their own ruling on it. However, as a passenger, it is good to know that the airline must now prove it is an extraordinary excuse and it was not able to be prevented if reasonable steps had been taken3.
It is a frustrating situation to be in when baggage is lost or delayed. You as a passenger may loss items that are precious to you or it may just mean more money has to be sent to replace the clothes you lost. Murphy’s Law says you will loss the items most precious to you, the ones that money can’t replace. However, we can still try. Depending where you are in the world you may be able to ask the airline to compensate your loss or you may ask your insurance (if you have any). In some cases the airline will offer a deal to replace the items that have been lost. Either way the best course of action is to determine what you are legally entitled to4.
I'll never remember that
With everything that is going on in the world, it can be very difficult to remember what the regulation says. The question is should we have to keep an eye on the Airlines ourselves to make sure that they are playing fair? It is not possible for the general public to keep the airlines accountable for their actions. This should be the job of the governing body5. Though there are many problems that airlines face it is still possible to check whether there is an entitlement for compensation. This link here can provide customers with an iphone application to help remember their rights as a passenger.
Want to know more?
- Airport Security
- What is it? Find out more Here
- Independent Traveler
- More on your right http://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=91&category=12
- Independent Traveler
- Security F&Qs http://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=710&category=1&page=1
- Aviation Consumer Protection