Know Your Rights as an Airline Passenger

Consumer Finance - September 4, 2018
Man with luggage looking out airport window at jet taking off

The recent viral video of an airline passenger being forcibly removed from a flight sparked outrage and debate from consumers around the world. Both U.S. and Canadian air travelers do have some legal rights and protections for common issues such as lost luggage, getting bumped from a flight or tarmac delays. Before you travel it is important that you understand your rights. If you need any legal assistance contact your LegalShield provider law firm.


  • Involuntary bumping – If you are bumped from a flight due to overbooking and the airline is unable to reroute you to arrive at your destination within an hour of your originally scheduled time, you are entitled to compensation. If you are not rerouted to arrive within 1 to 2 hours of your intended arrival time you are entitled to the value of your ticket up to $650. If your arrival time is not within 2 hours of your originally scheduled arrival time (4 hours for international flights) you are entitled to double the price of your ticket up to $1,300. If you are rerouted through a different airline all expenses and additional charges must be covered by the airline. These rules only apply to overbooked flights and do not cover standard delays and cancellations.
  • Tarmac delays – Almost every frequent flyer has a horror story about sitting on the tarmac for hours. There are limits to how long you can be delayed on the tarmac for reasons other than, “safety, security and air traffic control.” Domestic flights are limited to no more than 3 hours, while international flights are limited to 4 hours. You are entitled to updates on your flight status every 30 minutes, bathrooms must be available and food and water should be provided for any delay lasting more than 2 hours.
  • Delayed or cancelled flights – Unlike involuntary bumping, there are no federal requirements for how airlines manage passengers on delayed or canceled domestic flights. This means the airlines set their own policies. You may check the airline’s terms and conditions to learn more about their specific policies. International travelers may be covered for, “reimbursement under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention for expenses resulting from a delayed or canceled flight.” You would file a claim directly with the airline for reimbursement. If your claim is denied you may have additional legal options including small claims court. Contact your LegalShield provider firm to determine the best course of action for your matter.
  • Extra fees and taxes – Airlines must “prominently disclose all potential fees on their websites” for meals, baggage, canceling or modifying reservations. Ticket agents should also refer customers to the latest fee information including both fees and taxes.
  • Lost or damaged bags – Lost luggage is another travel story that is all too familiar. If your bag is lost the airline must refund any baggage fees. The airline is also required to compensate you for, “reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in the carriage of passenger baggage.” The airline may not compensate you for fragile items or poor packing. Also, there are set limits on an airline’s liability, so carefully consider the transportation of particularly valuable items. If the contents of your bag are damaged take photographs of the damage right away. If you need assistance negotiating compensation for lost or damaged luggage or contents, call your LegalShield provider law firm.
  • Canadian travelers – Canadian air travelers’ rights are subject to the airline’s tariff. The tariff, a contract with passengers, lays out both the passenger’s rights and responsibilities, which should be reasonable and fair and applied to all passengers in the same manner whenever possible. The tariff should be easily accessible on the airline’s website and in their offices. Tariffs do vary by airline so it is important to review the information that pertains to your specific carrier. For more information visit the Canadian Transportation Agency’s website.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation – U.S. travelers can review the Department of Transportation’s, “A Consumer Guide to Air Travel” to learn more. If you have any legal questions contact your LegalShield provider law firm.