Answer ... (a) Flight delays or cancellations?
There are no federal laws requiring air carriers to provide passengers with money or other compensation when their flights are delayed. Each air carrier may establish its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers, if anything.
In some situations, due to a significant delay (which is not specifically defined by the US Department of Transportation (DOT)), a passenger may be entitled to a refund, including a refund for all optional fees associated with the purchase of the ticket. The DOT determines whether a passenger is entitled to a refund on a case-by-case basis, which is evaluated on many circumstances such as the length of the delay, the length of the flight and the passenger’s particular circumstances.
If a flight is cancelled and a passenger chooses to cancel the trip as a result, the passenger is entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. The passenger is also entitled to a refund for any bag fee paid and any extras purchased, such as a seat assignment.
Air carriers may involuntarily bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers; however, it is the air carrier’s responsibility to create its own fair boarding priorities. The DOT requires air carriers to give passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets bumped.
An air carrier is required to compensate a passenger after involuntarily bumping him or her from an oversold flight in certain situations. However, there are situations where the passenger is not entitled to compensation. Passengers who are denied boarding involuntarily due to overselling are entitled to compensation that is based on:
- the price of their ticket;
- the length of time for which they are delayed in reaching their destination because of being denied boarding; and
- whether their flight is a domestic flight or an international flight leaving from the United States.
(c) Denied boarding for other reasons?
An air carrier may refuse to transport a passenger for any non-discriminatory reason listed in its contract of carriage, the agreement between the passenger and the air carrier, such as:
- being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs;
- attempting to interfere or interfering with the duties of a flight crew member; or
- disrupting a flight or engaging in unruly behaviour.
(d) Baggage delay, damage or loss?
Under DOT regulations (for domestic travel) and international treaties (for international travel), air carriers must compensate passengers if their bags are damaged, delayed or lost.
Air carriers are responsible for repairing or reimbursing a passenger for damaged baggage and/or its contents when the damage occurs while the bag is under the air carrier’s control during transportation (subject to maximum limits on liabilities).
Air carriers are required to compensate passengers for reasonable, verifiable and actual incidental expenses that they may incur while their bags are delayed, subject to the maximum liability limits.
(e) Disabled access?
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) makes it illegal for air carriers to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. The DOT is responsible for enforcing the ACAA, which applies to all flights to, from or within the United States. Air carriers must also provide passengers with disabilities with many types of assistance, including:
- wheelchair or other guided assistance to board, deplane or connect to another flight;
- seating accommodation assistance that meets the passenger’s disability-related needs; and
- assistance with the loading and stowing of assistive devices.