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:
- Flight Delays
- Bumping, Denied Boarding and Overbooking
- Lost Luggage
- Missed Connections
- When to fly
- How to pack
- And more
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.
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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.