A First-Class Rule

Q: If my plane is canceled or delayed, is the airline obligated to get me on any next available flight–not just one of theirs?
–D. Thompson, Los Angeles

A: Yes, only on domestic flights, under what’s called Rule 240. If the delay or cancellation is in any way the fault of the airline, it is required to book you on any next available flight within one hour of your regularly scheduled flight time–even if it requires an upgrade on another airline–at no additional cost to you.

“Before deregulation of the airline industry in 1978, Rule 240 was a federal requirement,” explains Michael Bennett, president and CEO of Travelnewsradio.com, “where airlines had to post and publicize how they intended to accommodate an inconvenienced passenger. Since deregulation, airlines are no longer required to tell customers unless they are asked.” Rule 240 is now incorporated into the “contract of carriage agreement” issued to purchasers of airline tickets. Bennett notes that Rule 240 does not apply to acts of God, acts of war, or labor problems.

If you are involuntarily bumped, however, and will arrive more than one hour, but less than two, off your regularly scheduled time, the airline is required to pay you up to $200. Over two hours, the airline is required to pay you up to $400. “Note that these are minimum compensation requirements,” says Bennett. “If you feel the need to negotiate further, it is definitely within your rights.”

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