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A record-breaking number of Americans are traveling, but most are unprepared for the journey – more than 90% of US travelers don’t know their rights, according to AirHelp, advocate for air passengers.
For easy reference, they have compiled a brief overview of U.S. air passenger rights below, along with insider tips for smart travelers. Knowing your rights could make you eligible to claim compensation. These include what to do regarding:
Disruptions: If you are flying within the U.S. and you are denied boarding due to an overbooked flight, you may be eligible to claim 400% of the one-way fare to your destination in compensation, of a value up to $1,350. Also, for flight cancellations or lengthy delays, if you’re flying to the EU on an EU airline, or departing from an EU airport, you may be eligible to claim up to $700 per person in compensation under European law EC 261.
Lost Luggage: Did you know airlines that lose or damage travelers’ luggage are obligated to pay out compensation of $1,500 – $3,500 to impacted passengers and reimburse them for lost items? Many travelers are unaware of these rights. Whether a traveler is flying within the U.S. or to one of the other 120 countries that ratified the Montreal Convention, if that person experiences luggage issues while traveling, they may be entitled to compensation under air passenger rights laws, including U.S. national law and the Montreal Convention. In order to successfully get the compensation that they are entitled to, a passenger must file a claim before leaving the airport. Travelers should fill out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) claim for misplaced luggage, including the case number of their bags. The more detailed the claim, the better off that passenger will be, including an itemized list of the contents of their luggage, including the value of each item.
Missed Connections: If flights are booked together under one reference code, passengers can claim $300 – $700 in compensation from the airlines if they miss a connecting flight due to an earlier disruption under EC 261.
Fly during off-peak days or times to avoid the largest crowds at airports. The late night flights are often the least crowded, which means that your flight may be less likely to be overbooked, and your wait time at security will be shorter.
Consider flying out of alternate airports, if your airport is known to have delays. If flights from one airport typically experience significant disruptions, you can anticipate the new screenings will create longer lines at security and additional delays. Look into flights through different airports that fit your travel needs.
Leave extra time for traveling to the airport. No matter when people are traveling, they should anticipate traffic near the airport and overcrowding inside, thanks to overtourism. Pack the car with your luggage the night before departing to help save precious time the day of. Schedule extra time for driving, plan to arrive at the airport at least three hours before takeoff, and be sure to leave ample time to get through lines at security in case of large crowds. If it is easy enough, travelers can also consider public transportation to eliminate parking fees and cut costs.
Be ready for longer lines at security. With larger flights, waiting for luggage can take a lot of extra time at the airport. For short trips, travelers may consider using only a carry-on item, as long as all items fall under TSA requirements.
Strategically pack your luggage to have your ID and all liquid items at the top so that they’re easily accessible to TSA staff.
Pack larger electronics at the top. In July 2018, the TSA announced rules that require electronics larger than a cellphone to be placed in separate screening bins. If you’re one of the many travelers who are opting to bring bags on board rather than pay money to check them, pack larger electronics at the top so they’re easy to remove and place in a separate screening bin.
Consider wearing a pullover jacket or sweatshirt instead of a zip-up – this will allow you to quickly get through security without having to worry about removing articles of clothing.
Bring chargers and extra entertainment for the airport. Sometimes, flight disruptions are inevitable, so consider packing an extra phone charger and book to take on the flight.
It has been confirmed that investigators have determined the automatic anti-stall system as activated before the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet crash.
This initial determination is based on information from the aircraft’s data and voice recorders, which shows that the malfunctioning automated system may be responsible for the deadly March 10 crash.
This preliminary determination was made known during a briefing at the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) yesterday. It is also known that the auto anti-stall system was activated on the Indonesian Lion Air 737 Max jet crash.
The preliminary findings could be revised, but right now they point to the system, called MCAS (or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) as the potential cause of both crashes. Regulators say the Ethiopian Airlines Max jet followed a similar flight path to the Lion Air flight, including erratic climbs and descents before crashing minutes after takeoff.
The MCAS system is designed to automatically point the nose of the jets down if it senses potential for a loss of lift, or aerodynamic stall. Aircraft can lose lift from the wings and fall from the sky if the nose points too high. The system also makes the Max fly similarly to older generations of Boeing’s 737, negating the need for a lot of added pilot training.
Boeing is working on a software update to the auto anti-stall system so that the nose will point down only once instead of around 21 times as happened in the Lion Air crash making it easier for pilots to override it.
Ethiopian officials are expected to release their preliminary report soon.
The 737 Max 8 has been grounded worldwide due to the crashes as Boeing works on an update to its software to make the planes safer.
Two unaccompanied teenage minors, ages 15 and 16, were left stranded in South Korea after being booted from their flight from Seoul to the Philippines before takeoff.
The sons of Rakesh and Prajakta Patel had gone to visit their grandfather in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, and were on the return journey to Manila, where their father is working a temporary job. They were making the transatlantic trip on their own.
The return trip began with a 14-hour Delta flight from Georgia to Seoul, South Korea. This first leg of the journey went fine, but their travel plans took a turn for the worse when the boys attempted to board a second flight from Seoul to Manila with Delta partner Korean Air as a result of one of the boys having a deadly peanut allergy.
Prajakta Patel, the mother of the teens, had informed Delta of her older son’s severe peanut allergy ahead of their big trip, so the brothers were shocked when a gate agent told them that peanuts would be served in the high skies. The boy’s allergy is so severe that even airborne particulates from peanuts could be extremely dangerous.
After explaining the situation, the teens were allegedly told that they could either take the flight or exit the aircraft and miss the trip. Though the Patel’s sons chose to board the plane, they were soon booted off.
“The gate agent came on the plane and told my sons to get off,” Mrs. Patel said. “One of my kids was shaking — they’re alone in a different country. Where were they supposed to go?” Mrs. Prajakta claimed that the gate agent even pulled on her son’s shirt “to encourage him to move” off of the aircraft.
Confused, the teens found themselves back in the gate area and told flight officials that they were willing to sit in the back of the plane with the brother with nut allergies wearing a mask. Despite their offer to compromise, a gate staffer reportedly told the boys that were not allowed to get back on the plane that was now “closed.”
Shaken, the boys called their parents, who tried to help them get to Manila without success. The mother spoke with a Delta representative who told her the boys could fly on a different carrier, however, not knowing other airlines’ nut policies, it was decided to fly the boys back to Atlanta, Georgia, on Delta.
Mrs. Patel is pushing for more than just an apology with the hopes that airlines will improve their employee education policies on nut allergies. She has filed a complaint with Delta and Korean Airlines and is reportedly seeking a refund.
Delta and Korean Air issued the following statements regarding the matter: “We’re sorry for this family’s ordeal, particularly during what is already a difficult time for them. Delta and our partner Korean Air are communicating with the family and examining the processes surrounding this incident; we will use our findings in our work to create a consistent experience for customers flying Delta and our partner airlines.”
A spokesperson for Korean Air, too, offered similar sentiments: “Korean Air is aware that peanut and food allergies are an industry issue and no airline can guarantee a food allergy-free environment. But we are reviewing ways to deal with this issue in a safe and feasible way. We totally understand the risks faced by passengers with nut and food allergies and will certainly try to accommodate them better in the future.”
French air crash investigators are saying that they have found “clear similarities” between last week’s Ethiopian Airlines crash and last October’s Lion Air disaster. Both 737 MAX aircraft plunged nose-first to their doom.
“During the verification process of the FDR (flight data recorder) data, clear similarities were noted by the investigation team between Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610, which will be the subject of further study during the investigation,” the BEA said in a statement.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 nosedived into a field shortly after takeoff last Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the sea last October, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
In both cases, the 737 MAX’s MCAS system is suspected to be responsible. The system automatically makes adjustments to the tail angle to keep the plane level in flight. However, false sensor readings can repeatedly trigger the system, forcing the plane into a dive.
The BEA investigators found that the sensor readings in both flights were similar.
In the US, a group of engineers with the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing claimed over the weekend that Boeing downplayed safety concerns surrounding the MCAS system in a bid to bring the 737 MAX to market before rival Airbus launched its own next-generation narrow body aircraft.
The engineers also claimed that the FAA delegated much of the 737 MAX’s safety testing to Boeing itself, and were content to trust the company’s conclusions. Other air safety regulators around the world then certified the MAX 8 based on the FAA’s thumbs up.
The US Department of Transportation is now investigating the FAA’s approval of the aircraft, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Federal prosecutors have reportedly issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in the development of the 737 MAX.
The aircraft remains grounded worldwide after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster. The FAA has said it may take “months” for Boeing to apply the necessary software updates to rectify any problems with the MCAS system.