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Money Fix: Holiday flight delayed? Know your rights

If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight,

If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, how much you receive from the airline depends on how late you arrive at your destination. Credit: AP/Ben Margot

The winter holiday season is the time of year when many of us are most likely to be hopping on a plane to see loved ones or to take a vacation. Traveling can be tough this time of year for myriad reasons. But if things go wrong, there is a silver lining: You may get compensated for your troubles. Know your rights when you fly. 

Mechanical vs. weather problems

“There are no laws or regulations covering mechanical delays. Carriers determine what they offer as compensation. This could include meals and overnight stays with transportation to and from hotels,” says Shane Chapman, senior vice president of airline industry relations for Ovation Travel Group in Manhattan.

However, when Mother Nature is the chief culprit for your flight delay, you're on your own. There’s not much you can do besides pout and pray.

Benefits of being bumped

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, compensation is required by federal law only when a passenger is involuntarily “bumped” from a flight that is oversold and arrives late to their destination, explains Chapman.

After taxes, Joshua Zimmelman’s favorite topic is travel. The president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre offers the lowdown.

“If an airline involuntarily bumps you from your flight, you keep your original ticket (to be used later) or get a refund, but whether or not you’re owed additional compensation depends on how soon they get you to your destination,” he says.

If it’s within one hour of your scheduled time, they owe you nothing.  Arrive within one to two hours of your scheduled arrival on a domestic flight (or one to four hours on an international flight), you’re due 200% of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $675. If you arrive later than that, expect 400% of the fare, up to $1,350.  

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