Flight grounded? know your rights!

Flyers, you have rights. the right to sit in an un-airconditioned metal box for up to three hours before you can get away from that screaming brat and stinking toilet. Or is it stinking brat and screaming toilet? Below, a few terms for complaining in an educated manner on both sides of the pond.

Bait and switch (US, EU): the illegal practice of advertising an airline price without the taxes, charges, surcharges and fees, which can cost as much or more than the fare.

Force majeure: secular EU-speak for ‘Act of God,’ or an excuse not to compensate passengers stuck for days without a toothbrush or clean undies.

Bumping (EU): getting kicked off the plane. One can expect compensation, a meal, accommodation and transport to and from the hotel. Good luck finding a London hotel for a hundred bucks.

Delays (EU, in theory): a postponement of flight. For EU airlines, flying in the EU, passengers can demand up to

  •  400 euros for delays of more than three hours
  •  300 euros for delays of between three and four hours; and 600 euros for delays of more than four hours

Delays (EU, reality): according to europa.eu’s Air passenger rights FAQs, ‘Where the cancellation/delay was due to extraordinary circumstances, you may not have the right to compensation, but the carrier must still offer you assistance (reimbursement or re-routing) and care (meals and/or accommodation) while you are waiting for alternative transport.’ Translation: a lukewarm bottle of water and a yoga mat, if you’re lucky.

EU enforcement: read the news lately?

Bumping (US): In cases of overbooking, it depends on the airline. Some offer compensation and a free ticket, others just drag you off the plane, for all on Twitter to see.

Delays (US): passengers have the right to a refund or a rerouted ticket. The catch: airlines determine what a ‘delay’ is.

US enforcement: see above

For more information on your rights, check out the US Department of Transportation’s entertaining site: Got Flights? Know Your Rights. EU citizens can titter at this equally hilarious piece of fiction: FAQs Air Passenger Rights

Read Next: Think you’ve got it bad? Check out Death on a Plane

Sarah is a blogger, writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.

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