It Helps to Know Your Exact Rights As an Airline Passenger!
One of my very good clients shared with me one of the worst airline delay stories I’d ever heard this past year. I had planned a fabulous vacation to England for her family. She then purchased the airline tickets on a foreign carrier herself, on her own. On the day of travel, the family went to JFK and got all the way to the gate, only to find out that their plane had some mechanical difficulties and would be "delayed". To make a very long story short, 40 hours later, they were still sitting at JFK, at which point they decided to cancel their entire trip — a disappointing outcome for the entire family. Talk about a vacation totally ruined!! I wish she would have phone me right away, I could have helped!!
Every airline has “conditions of carriage”. Some domestic carriers still have language known as Rule 240; foreign carriers state in their conditions of carriage what their obligations are, in the event of airline caused delays (i.e. Not weather, strike or Force-Majeure related problems).
Many airlines agree that if their system cannot get you to your destination in a specified amount of time, they are responsible for either refunding your ticket OR putting you on another carrier at no additional cost.
For some airlines, this means even if the other flight arrives earlier than your scheduled flight and even if the only seat available is in First Class, you have to the right to that new ticket.
Sounds really good, right?
Unfortunately, the ultra low-cost carriers have the least generous of such policies. Watch out for their policies...and always read the fine print.
And...what's sad is that many ticket agents don’t know the fine print of such “conditions of carriage”. The relevant language is usually found somewhere on the airlines website (many times in the fine print). It’s a good point to look it up before you fly, definitely print it out, and use it when necessary (in a polite, but very firm manner).
My unfortunate client didn’t have a lot of options, but the "conditions of carriage" did require her airline to get her to the destination in a reasonable time period, even on another airline carrier. Had she had travel insurance, or phoned me ASAP, this might have all be quickly avoided!
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