Who can forget the image of the doctor being dragged off a United Airlines flight this spring? When it comes to the airlines, the customer is not always king. Bumping is legal.
What are your rights when bumped?
- See ya later: “According to the Department of Transportation, airlines must ask for volunteers and can offer inducements like vouchers. If they don’t get enough volunteers, they can bump folks. To determine who gets bumped, airlines can take into account the fare you paid and your frequent-flyer status,” explains Helen Prochilo, a travel agent with Promal Vacations in Long Beach. If you paid more or have more miles, you’re less likely to get bumped.
Once bumped, the airline must give passengers a written statement describing their rights. Compensation depends on several factors — the price of the ticket, length of delay in getting to their destination and whether the flight is domestic or international.
- Now what? Think twice about vouchers. “If you accept those, you lose your right to cash compensation. Ask the agent specifically what your one-way fare is, and do the math. Be sure you get the best deal. Insist on a check when the airline bumps you without your consent,” says Brian Karmizad, an analyst with MileCards.com in Manhattan.
- What kind of cash can you expect? Under federal rules, if you get rebooked to arrive within one hour of your original flight, you get nothing. A one- to two-hour delay (one- to four-hour on international flights) is compensated at twice your one-way fare to your destination, up to a maximum of $675, explains Chris Lopinto, president of ExpertFlyer.com in Patchogue. A delay of more than two hours (more than four hours on international flights), or a case where the airline doesn’t make alternate plans for you at all, is compensated at four times your one-way fare, to a maximum of $1,350.