Regardless of whether you fly economy or first-class, all airline passengers have the right to be treated fairly. It’s just common sense for any passenger to demand for reimbursement after getting bumped off a flight or having his luggage lost while in transit. As not all airlines are keen in providing good customer service at the expense of losing profits, knowing your rights is the first step towards making sure you get rightfully compensated for the inconvenience.
- If you cancel a flight
In the event that you can no longer make it to your pre-paid flight, the airline is not entitled to reimburse you the cost of a ticket or allow you to transfer to another flight schedule. If you’re unsure about your traveling dates, it is best to purchase refundable tickets or buy travel insurance to be able to minimize your financial risk.
- If the airline cancels or delays your flight due to extreme weather
As storms, hurricanes or blizzards are beyond the airline’s control, they will do their best to get their passengers on the next available flight. Depending on how long the delay is, some airlines may even provide meals or hotel vouchers as a form of courtesy and good customer service. However, if a major storm or blizzard is forecasted to be headed your way, most airlines will cancel flights in advance so you’re not stranded at the airport, and they will allow you to rebook within a specific time frame without penalty.
- If the airline cancels or delays your flight due to mechanical failures and other internal complications
Just the same, the airline will try to get you on the next available flight. However, depending on their policy, you can even request to be transferred to another carrier or ask for a refund for the unused portion of your trip. Especially if you’re at risk of missing an important business meeting, it helps to know your options in order to make it to your destination with the least delay.
- If you get bumped from your flight
Airlines typically overbook during peak season, and this will result to some passengers getting involuntarily bumped from their flights. In the event that you get booted off without your full consent, know that you can get compensated up to $1,300 if the airline can’t get you on another flight that will arrive within one hour of the originally scheduled arrival time.
- If your luggage gets lost or damaged while in transit
Your carrier is responsible in making sure your luggage gets to you in one piece and in the same condition as you had checked it in. Should they fail to fulfill this responsibility, know that you are entitled to getting a refund for the baggage fee, as well as a replacement of your suitcase!
Yet, knowing your rights as an airline passenger is not the hardest part. Getting your airline to honor them is the bigger challenge. Unfortunately, it’s not automatic for airlines to offer compensation, if you don’t ask. In fact, some airlines purposely make their claim reimbursement policies and processes very tedious to discourage people from exerting their rights.
Here’s what you could do to ensure you get to claim what your airline owes you:
- Speak to the airline agent courteously
While you may be tempted to lash out on the airline agent, it’s important to keep your cool and avoid any demands. Instead, make it easy for them to get you what you want by bringing forward a solution that is favourable for you but also easy to accomplish for the airline. Being rude and aggressive will get you nowhere, except at the back of the line or sulking in the departure gate.
- Call customer service from the terminal
If the airline agents are not helpful to you in a way, get ready to call the airline’s customer service hotline. As they are not dealing with stressed and aggressive passengers in person, they may be able to deal with the issue with a much clearer head. They may be able to rebook you to the next available flight more quickly, as the gate agents may be too fixated in explaining the situation to customers again and again. Don’t forget to be polite but firm. There is an incredibly fine line between being rude and being assertive.
- Take your complaint to social media
With social media gaining more popularity nowadays, airline companies have begun to use Twitter or Facebook not only to promote their deals but also to handle customer complaints. As this is visible publicly, they do not want any complaints to explode out of proportions. Use these channels wisely to bring forward your concerns. Most often than not, customer concerns get resolved more quickly when you tweet or post on their company profiles.
- File a complaint with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division
If your airline refuses to acknowledge your complaint or concern, know that the FAA Aviation Consumer Protection Division accepts any customer complaints about airlines 24 hours per day on their hotline. Should you be unable to reach them through their hotline, you can also fax them, mail them or submit a web form that allows you to easily escalate your complaint.
- Be persistent about your rightful compensation
Lodging your complaint is just the first step of the process. Truth is, the claim reimbursement process requires multiple paperwork to fill out and multiple phone calls to make. In order to get rightful compensation for the inconvenience you’ve experienced, you need to do your fair share of the work by following up consistently, talking to multiple people and properly documenting your case. Unfortunately, airlines do not make it easy and straightforward for their passengers to get compensation, so you need to be persistent to get what you deserve.
While a delay is a delay and sometimes there is really nothing you can do about it, it helps to be informed of what you’re entitled to. It’s your right to demand for a reasonable compensation, especially since you’ve paid for it!