If Your Flight Is Delayed or Canceled, You Could Now Get Paid—Here's How
Facing any major travel woes means you may be entitled to some cash.
We've all experienced travel woes like being stuck in a lousy seat next to someone who's overly chatty. However, when it comes to major inconveniences, the worst issue to deal with is your plane not leaving on time or even at all. In most cases, it's easy to feel completely powerless when you're stranded at the airport. But thanks to a rule change, you might be able to get paid the next time your flight is canceled or delayed. Read on to see how airlines can sometimes compensate you with cash.
New rules entitle passengers to compensation on delayed or canceled connecting domestic flights that originate in the E.U.
We all dread getting the news that our travel plans have been dashed—especially when it appears to be an issue unrelated to bad weather. But in a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union on April 8, a law protecting airline passengers was expanded that entitles any traveler on a canceled or delayed domestic connecting flight that originated in the E.U. to cash compensation from the airline, travel news outlet The Points Guy reports.
The latest change is an expansion of an existing rule that will affect some domestic U.S. flights.
The latest change broadens an existing passenger protection rule that has been in place since 2005, known as EU261. Under these regulations, any traveler whose flight originating in the E.U. or bound for the E.U. on an E.U.-based carrier that gets canceled or delayed more than three hours within 14 days of the flight's scheduled departure can expect anywhere from $270 to $650 in compensation from the airline. The latest ruling adds anyone traveling on a connecting flight within the U.S. (or elsewhere) on a trip that originates in the E.U. under the same protection.
The ruling came after three passengers on a Lufthansa-ticketed flight from Brussels to San Jose, California, experienced a delay of nearly four hours during a layover in Newark for a connecting flight operated by United Airlines, The Points Guy reports.
"[It] must be interpreted as meaning that a passenger on a connecting flight, comprising two legs and subject to a single booking with a Community carrier, departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State and arriving at an airport located in a third country via another airport in that third country is entitled to compensation from the third-country air carrier which operated the entirety of that flight acting on behalf of that Community carrier, where that passenger has reached his or her final destination with a delay of more than three hours caused in the second leg of the said flight," the court wrote in its decision.
No similar passengers' rights rules exist in the U.S. yet.
Unfortunately, while the rule extends to some flights that originate in the U.S., there is no similar law in place that protects travelers when itineraries get upended by carriers making a mistake. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): "In the United States, airlines are not required to compensate passengers when flights are delayed or canceled. Compensation is required by U.S. law only when certain passengers are 'bumped' from a flight that is oversold."
Even for flights covered by the new rules, passengers aren't always entitled to cash in every case. Cancelations or delays caused by severe weather events or government shutdowns are considered "extraordinary," making them ineligible for compensation.
Services can help you secure your cash compensation for a small fee.
If you find yourself returning from abroad and experience issues with your scheduled flight, it can help to know your rights to make sure you receive your due payout. For a small fee, services such as AirHelp can oversee your case for you and take over securing your claim in what can be a long and tedious process.
And while there's no official rule on the books for travelers in the U.S., you should still check your carrier's policy on compensation for travel snafus. "If the delay is caused by a mechanical issue, check your airline's contract of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline, for details on your rights," Chris Elliott, founder and chief advocacy officer of consumer rights nonprofit Elliott Advocacy, told U.S. News and World Report. "Even if it's a weather issue or an act of God, many airlines will still help."
If you ever find yourself in the position of being bumped from a flight, you should also know you have more leverage than you realize. According to the DOT, "There is no limit to the amount of money or vouchers that the airline may offer, and passengers are free to negotiate with the airline." So while it may not be cash in your pocket, holding out for a better offer in this situation could at least score you a huge travel voucher.