A Consumer Guide to Air Travel

A Consumer Guide to Air Travel

A Consumer Guide to Air Travel


  1. Air Fares
  2. Schedules and Tickets
  3. Delayed and Canceled Flights
  4. Overbooking
  5. Baggage

effort to keep Fly-Rights up-to-date however, airlines are constantly changing the way they conduct business. Therefore, when you read this article, some of the methods we outline might differ.


The removal of government regulations of airline routes and fares has resulted in lower costs and a variety of service and price choices. In the current commercial climate consumers must be more involved in deciding on their airline by asking several questions:

  • Do I care more about cost or schedule? Do I want to fly at a later time in exchange for saving $25?
  • Can the airline charge me for reserving my flightor
  • Do I need to pay an extra fee for checked bags or seats?
  • What is the airline’s plan to me in the event that it cancels my flight?
  • This guide is intended to clarify your rights and obligations as a passenger on the air and show you how to avoid issues. We hope that it will help you become a better consumer.

Air Fares

Due to the focus in price-competition, customers can choose from a broad range of airfares. It is simple to compare schedules and fares through the Web through airline website sites or third-party reservation service. It is also possible to contact a travel agent, a ticket shop, or airlines serving the locations you’d like to travel to. (Some airline companies and retailers charge fees for tickets bought via other methods than the Internet. However some airlines charge an additional fee for tickets bought via the Internet.) Be alert to advertisements in radio and newspapers in which airlines promote a variety discounts in your area. Be aware of emerging companies that are serving the market. They could offer lower prices or provide different services than established airlines. Here are some suggestions to help you choose between airfares:

  • Be flexible with your travel plans to receive the best price. The most affordable deals might be only available on specific dates of week (particularly the weekend or midweek days) or specific times during the day (e.g. early-morning flights or over night “red eyes”). When searching for airfares and flights on the Web it is possible to indicate the dates you are willing to change and, in results, the prices generally are listed from lowest to the highest. If you’re shopping by either in person or by phone and you receive an estimate of the cost, ask the reservation representative to see if you can save more by departing sooner or later or booking a different flight for that same date.
  • Plan as far in advance that you are able to. Some airlines reserve just a handful of seats per flight, at lower prices. The most affordable seats usually go on sale very quickly. However, air companies sometimes make discounted seats available later. If you’ve decided to skip an excursion because the price you were looking for was not offered when you first inquired about it, consider re-inquiring, particularly before the deadline for advance purchases. The holidays are when flights can be sold out months in advance of time, however in many instances, you will be able to get seats if you choose to travel during the holiday that day, e.g. Christmas Day or Thanksgiving Day.
  • Certain airlines might offer discounts that aren’t offered by other airlines. If you live in a metropolitan area it is possible that the price will depend on the airport you travel to. Additionally connections (change of aircrafts) or one-stop flights are often less expensive than nonstop.
  • Be aware that a lot of airlines charge additional fees to check baggage advanced seats, meals or any other service. Airlines provide information about these charges on their internet websites.
  • If you’re traveling that involves two airlines, inquire whether your luggage will be moved. Find out if your ticket will be valid on a different airline for no additional charge in the event that your flight is delayed or suffers a prolonged delay. Also, ask if the airline you fly with will be paying for food or hotel rooms in the time of waiting.
  • The majority of discount fares are not refundable If you purchase one of these tickets and later decide to end your trip, you’ll not be able to get your money back. In a lot of cases, you are able to use your ticket for a new journey in the near future, however there is some cost. A lot of tickets also come with penalties for changing dates or flights even if you do not want any refund. There is a possibility that you will have to pay for any differences in airfare in the event that your ticket type isn’t applicable for your new date.
  • Once you’ve purchased your ticket, contact the travel agency or airline at least twice prior to departure to verify the cost. The prices change constantly and if the cost you paid is reduced before you travel, some airlines will reimburse the difference (or offer an amount of credit to travel for the amount). However, you must inquire.
  • Airfares aren’t always the same, and they can be significant. Comparing carefully among airlines takes some time, but it could result in substantial savings.

Schedules and Tickets

If you have decided when and where you’d like travel and what airline you would like to fly with typically, you’ll need purchase tickets to secure a seat. However, some major airlines will hold reservations for up to 24 hours without the payment. Some will require payment at the time you make your reservation, however they will offer an entire refund in the event that you cancel your reservation within the first few days or so. If you are able to Both of these options allow you to reserve seats and pay for a brief period while you shop around to find a cheaper price. Be aware of these aspects to take into consideration when choosing the flight or purchasing tickets:

  • Look up the percentage of performance on time for the flight you’re considering. Performance percentages on time for individual flights of the major U.S. airlines are available through phone calls from these airlines on the request of the airline. They have to publish the information on their internet sites, along with a specific announcements for flights with significant interruptions or cancelations. If you’re deciding between two flights that have similar schedules and prices, you might decide to pick the one that has the best performance on time. (Only the biggest U.S. airlines are required to keep track of and provide the data on performance and on-time.) You can find aggregate data regarding airport and airline on-time performance, as well as a listing of the delayed most often flights in the DOT’s Monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. The website of the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics ( www.bts.gov) provides complete on-time performance information for the major U.S. airlines that are required to publish the information.
  • If you purchase tickets, make sure every detail is correctly recorded. When you press “Submit” or make a final commitment to a reservation agent, go over all of the necessary details ? Your name’s spelling, dates of your flight and flight numbers and the cities that you will be traveling between. Make use of the format of your name printed on your photo ID you’ll present when you arrive at airport. (For flights that are international, it is the passport you carry.) If there’s more one airport in each city, make sure to determine the one you’ll use. It’s also essential to provide the airline a contact number and email address in order to notify you when there’s a change to the schedule of their flight.
  • The “direct” (or “through”) flight that has one flight number may include at least one intermediate stop. Connection (change between planes) typically is assigned a different flights number per flight however sometimes, the two flights appear on the same schedule. Take a close look at the “Stops” column and the time of departure and arrival to determine if the flight is suitable for your needs.
  • If you’re flying to a city that is small and your flight’s number is four digits, you could be booked with an airline for commuters that have a contract with the main carrier under whose name the plane is promoted and offered. Check for information about these known as “code-share” flights in the schedules, or inquire with the agent who handles reservations. DOT will require that you be given the information.
  • When you receive your confirmation email or ticket Make sure the information you receive is correct, including your name, your airport (if any cities has multiple airports) and the dates of your flight. Take any necessary changes immediately.
  • You’ll need to present an official government photo I.D. before you travel. It is essential that the name you enter on the ticket matches the one you will see it on the I.D. that you are using. If your name has changed recently and the name you see on the ticket as well as your I.D. are different (or will be different at the time you leave) Bring proof to prove the new name (e.g. an official wedding certificate, or court decree).
  • A number of European states (“the Schengen states”) need passports valid for at least 3 months beyond the date of leaving the Schengen zone. For more information see the Department of State’s Schengen web page at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/schengen-fact-sheet.html.
  • Check the departure and arrival time of the flights at least a few days prior to your departure date; schedules may alter. When traveling internationally, some airlines might require you to confirm your return or onward reservations no later than 72 hours prior to the departure of each flight. If you do not then your reservation could be cancelled.
  • Take your ticket or printed confirmation of your flight to the airport. You might also be able download your flight pass on the airline’s website in the 24 hours prior to departing. This speedy check-in can help you avoid some of the stress you could experience if you had to wait in a lengthy queue at an airport.
  • The use of credit cards provides certain protections from federal laws on credit. If you are due a refund and the airline is required to transfer credit to your credit company’s credit card within seven days following receipt of a completed refund request but the credit could require a few months to appear on your account. If you made a payment with a credit card to pay for a refundable fare and are having difficulty getting the refund you’re due (e.g. that you are owed an refundable fare, or an unrefundable fare and the airline has cancelled the flight you booked and you were unable to travel due to the cancellation) Report the situation in writing to the business that handles your credit cards. If you send a letter to the company within 60 days of the date they sent your first monthly statement indicating the cost of your airline ticket, the company will credit your account, even if the airline does not. This method is particularly helpful when your airline stops operations before you fly.

Be aware that in some instances tickets purchased in foreign currency are only able to be refunded using the same currency and in the same country due to financial restrictions. Remember this when you’re thinking of purchasing tickets in a foreign country.

Delayed and Cancelled Flights

Airline schedules cannot be guaranteed You should be aware of this when you plan your travel plans. There are a myriad of factors that could make impossible for flights to depart in time. Certain of these issues like weather conditions delays in air traffic and mechanical problems are difficult to anticipate and often outside of airline’s control.

In the event that your plane is delayed you can try to figure out how late it is. However, keep in mind that it’s sometimes hard for airlines to determine the duration of delays in the beginning stage. In the case of “creeping delays,” developments happen that were not expected when the airline estimated the duration of delay. Weather forecasts that were supposed to improve could actually worsen or a mechanical issue may prove to be more complicated than originally thought. If the issue is related to the local climate or control of air traffic the likelihood is that all flights will delay and there’s nothing much that you or the airline can do to expedite the departure. If your flight has an extended delay then you may be better in arranging a different flight, if you don’t need the expense of a cancel charge or pay a higher rate to change your reservation. (It is usually more convenient to make these arrangements via phone than the counter at a ticket booth.) If you discover an airline that is not yours and you are on the same airline, ask that airline to sign off on your ticket to the new airline; this could help you avoid a fare collection. Be aware however that there’s no regulation that requires them to do this.

In the event that your trip is cancelled in the event of a cancellation, many airlines will book passengers on the next plane to where you are if space is available for no extra cost. If there is a major delay, check whether another airline is available, and then inquire with the airline you booked your flight on whether they can sign off on your ticket with the other airline. The search for additional seats can be a challenge particularly during holiday and other high-traffic periods.

Every carrier has different policy on what they take care of passengers who are delayed at the airport. There are no federal standards. If you’re experiencing delays inquire with the airline staff whether it will cover meals or make a phone call. Some airlines, especially ones that charge very low prices and do not offer facilities for passengers stuck in the middle of the night. Some airlines may not provide amenities in the event that delays are due to bad weather or other factors beyond the control of the airline. Contrary to what many believe in the case of domestic flights, airlines are not required to pay compensation for passengers who have their flights delayed or cancelled. In section on “overbooking compensation is legally required for domestic flights only if you’ve been “bumped” from a flight which is sold out. For international flights passengers might be able to obtain the cost of reimbursement pursuant to Article 19 of the Montreal Convention in the event of an unscheduled or delayed flight through a claim made to the airline. If the claim is rejected and you are denied, you may seek to resolve the issue in the courts if you think that the carrier didn’t adopt all measures that are reasonable to minimize the damage resulted from the delay.

If this trip is conclude the deal that could be lucrative for your business or give a speech or talk or attend a family event or even join cruises, you may need to give yourself a bit of extra time and choose the flight earlier. Also delays on airlines aren’t uncommon and a defensive plan is an excellent idea when you’re putting time as the main factor.

Some flights are delayed due to the runway “tarmac” before taking off or following landing. The DOT regulations prohibit the majority of U.S. airlines from allowing domestic flights to stay on the tarmac for longer than three hours unless

  • The pilot decides that there an emergency or security reason that the plane cannot be taken to the gate in order to take off passengers the pilot determines that there is a safety or security reason why it cannot taxi to the gate
  • Air traffic control informs the pilot that getting at the gates (or to another place where passengers could be deplaned) could substantially interfere with airport operations.

U.S. airlines operating international flights from or to U.S.airports have to each determine and adhere to their own limitations on the duration of delays to tarmac on those flights. For both international and domestic flight, U.S. airlines must offer passengers water and food at no time more than two hours after the delay in tarmac starts. When the aircraft is still on the tarmac, bathrooms are required to be operational and medical care should be readily available in the event of a need.

When booking your flight, keep in mind that a departure at the beginning of the morning is less likely get delayed than later departure because of the “ripple” effects of delays throughout the day. If the flight that departs early is cancelled or delayed there are more rerouting options. If you plan to book the final departure of your day, and it’s cancelled and you are stuck for the night. It is possible to choose a connection (change between planes) instead of a nonstop or direct flight due to the time of departure that is convenient or the lower price. However, changing planes will always be accompanied by the risk of a missed connection. If you are offered a selection of connections and fares and service are similar pick the one that has the least crowded connecting airport which will make it easier to travel to your next flight. It’s a good idea to think about the possibility of adverse weather in the event that you are able to choose between connecting cities. When you make your reservation for connecting flights, make sure to check the duration of flights. Find out what would happen in the event that your first flight is cancelled; If you aren’t satisfied with the answer, you can choose a different date as well “construct” a connection that gives you additional time.


It isn’t illegal to overbook flights in most cases, and airlines often overbook the flights they have scheduled to some amount to make up to compensate for “no-shows.” Sometimes, passengers are left behind and “bumped” as a result. In the event of an oversale and there is a requirement that the Department of Transportation (DOT) demands airlines to ask passengers who don’t want to surrender their seats in a voluntary manner to receive compensation. The passengers who are who were pushed against their will are in some cases, but not all legally eligible for compensation.

Voluntary Bumping

Nearly every planeload of passengers aboard a plane includes passengers who have urgent travel requirements and those who are more concerned with the price of their tickets rather than arriving at their destination in time. The rules of the DOT require airlines to look for individuals who are willing offer their seats in exchange in exchange for compensation prior to bumping someone out of the blue. This is how it works. In the check-in or boarding area, employees of the airline are looking for volunteers if they believe that the flight was sold out. If you’re not eager to make it to the next location, you may offer your reservation back to the airline for compensation or a different flight. However, before doing this you should find answers to these crucial questions:

  • What is the date of the next flight in which the airline is able to verify your seating? It could be as suitable for you. However If the airline is willing to place you on standby for a flight that is full You could end up trapped.
  • Do they offer additional benefits like complimentary meals, hotel rooms or transfers from the hotel to airport, or a phone card? If not, you may need to spend the money the airline offers on accommodation or food as you wait for your next flight.

DOT has not imposed a specific type or amount of compensation that airlines provide to volunteers. DOT does however require airlines to inform volunteers if he or may be bumped involuntarily and, if this were to happen how much compensation that will be due. Airlines are able to bargain with their passengers to negotiate an acceptable and mutually agreeable compensation. The majority of airlines offer a free travel or other transportation benefits to potential volunteers. The airlines provide their employees with guidelines on how to bargain with passengers and can choose the volunteers who are willing to purchase their reservations at the cheapest cost. If an airline offers the customer a free ticket or voucher for transportation with a specific amount, ask about limitations. What is the duration of the voucher or ticket valid for? Are they “blacked out” during holiday times when you may be tempted to utilize it? It can be used on international flights?

Involuntary Bumping

The DOT requires every airline to provide all passengers bumped on a voluntary basis a written document outlining their rights and describing how the airline decides which passengers are placed on an oversold plane and who doesn’t. The passengers who aren’t able to fly are often entitled to be denied boarding compensation via a cheque or in cash. The amount required is contingent on the cost of the ticket as well as the duration of the delay. The requirements set by DOT are the minimum, however airlines could choose to offer more.

  • If you’re bumped out of the blue and the airline arranges alternative transportation for you to arrive at where you want to go (including additional connections) within an hour of your scheduled time of arrival, there is no compensation.
  • If the airline offers alternative transportation, which will arrive within one to two hours following your original time of arrival (between 1 and 4 hours for international flights) the airline has to pay you at a minimum an amount equivalent to 20% of your one-way ticket to your destination for that day or $775 which ever is less.
  • If the alternative transport is scheduled to take you there more than two hours late (four hours for international travel) or when the airline fails to provide any alternative transport arrangements on your behalf, then the minimal payment is doubled (400 percent of the one-way cost or $1,550, or the lesser amount).
  • If your ticket doesn’t have the fare (for instance, a frequent flyer award ticket, or a ticket issued by an consolidator) Your refused boarding compensation is calculated on the lowest check, cash or credit card charge for a ticket of the same category in service (e.g. coach first class, coach) for the flight.
  • You are always able to keep your original ticket to take it to another flight. If you prefer to arrange your own travel arrangements, you may apply for the “involuntary refund” for the ticket you were bumped off of. The compensation for denied boarding is in essence a payment to compensate to compensate you for the frustration.
  • If you paid for additional services during your first flight (e.g. seating choice or checked baggage) but didn’t receive these services on the subsequent flight or had to pay for them again and the airline bumped you has to refund the money to you.

As with all rules there are some limitations and exceptions:

  • In order to get compensation it is necessary to have valid reservation. A written confirmation from the airline, or an authorized reservation agent or service is sufficient in this regard, even in the event that the airline cannot locate your reservation on its computer system, so long as you haven’t cancelled your reservation and didn’t fail to meet a deadline for reconfirmation.
  • Every airline has a specific check-in time, which is the time prior to departure time that you have to present yourself in the terminal to check-in with the airline. On domestic flights, the majority of airlines have you at the departure point between 10 and 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time. However, certain deadlines could be extended to an hour or more. Check-in time for international flights may be up to three hours before the departure time. Some airlines will simply need you to be at the baggage/ticket counter prior to this time. Most do require you arrive to the area where you board. Some airlines may have deadlines at both places. If you fail to meet the deadline for checking in you could lose the reservation as well as your right to a reimbursement in the event that the flight is sold out.

As stated above there is no monetary compensation to be paid when the airline arranges alternative transportation expected to be at the destination in an hour of your original time of arrival.

If an airline has to substitute with a smaller aircraft than the one that it originally intended to use, it does not have to compensate passengers who were bumped as a consequence. Also when flying on aircrafts with 30 to 60 seats, compensation isn’t necessary if you are affected by safety-related aircraft weight or balance restrictions.

The rules aren’t applicable to charter flights, nor to scheduled flights operated using planes that can hold less than 30 people. These rules do not cover international flight heading towards from the United States, although some airlines operating on these routes might comply with them on a voluntary basis. In addition, if you’re traveling between two cities in the world such as for example, from Paris to Rome as an examplethese rules don’t apply. The European Commission has a rule on bumpings that occur in an EC country; ask the airline for details, or go to http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/air_en.htm.

Airlines determine themselves “boarding priorities” — the order they bump various kinds of passengers during an oversale. If a flight is sold out and there’s not enough passengers Some airlines may bump passengers who have the lowest prices first. Some airlines bump passengers who are the last to get checked in. After purchasing tickets, the best method to minimize the chance that you will be bumped to make it to the airport before you need to be. For passengers who are in the same class of fare, the last ones to check-in are often the first ones to be bumped even if they’ve met the deadline to check in. Take extra time and assume there is a chance that roads will be jammed in, parking area is overflowing, and there’s an incredibly long queue at the counter for check-in.

Airlines can offer tickets for free or dollar-value vouchers to be used on future flights instead of a check to pay for non-payment of compensation for boarding. If you’re forced to change flights, you have the right to request the payment of a check, if that’s your preference. If you decide to cash the check (or accept the flight for free) then you’ll likely lose the right to demand additional money from the airline in the future. If, however, being bumped will cost you more than the airline is willing to be able to pay at the time of departure, attempt to negotiate a better settlement with their complaints department. If this fails typically, you are given 30 days following the day you received the check to consider whether you’d like to take that amount. It is always your choice to reject your check (e.g. you can’t pay it) and even take your airline’s case to the courts to receive additional compensation. The denied boarding rule of the DOT defines the minimum obligations of airlines to passengers they bump into without reason. Finally, don’t be a “no-show.” If you hold confirmed reservations you don’t intend to make use of, inform the airline. If you don’t do so, they’ll cancel all future or back reservations made on the day of your travel.

If an airline decides that some or all passengers are likely to be forced to change seats due to the flight being over-sold The airline usually picks those passengers in the gate before passengers are deemed to be the boarding process and are allowed to board the aircraft. After a passenger is admitted to boarding or has already boarded a flight and has been boarding, airlines are not able to demand that passengers deplane in the event that departure of the individual is deemed necessary due to security, safety, or health reasons, or if the expulsion is the result of an illegal conduct.


When you have checked in your luggage between the time you collect it upon arrival the luggage may have travelled through an array of baggage carts and conveyor belts. After being airborne, luggage can be tossed around in the cargo compartment in case the plane encounters rough air. With all due respect to airlines, little bags are damaged or destroyed. With a little common sense packing and other security measures your bag is likely to be among those that are delivered safely.

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