Air Travel Passenger Rights

The crazy holiday travel season is coming so now is a good opportunity to remind people of their rights as an airline passenger.

#1 – Tarmac Delays

DOT prohibits U.S. airlines from remaining on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers (only exception is for safety or security).  Carriers are required to provide adequate food and drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories. 

#2 - Need to Change or Cancel a Ticket

You have up to 24 hours after booking a flight to void/cancel the ticket at no charge for a full refund (assuming you’re booking at least one week before departure.) You can also hold a reservation for 24 hours before paying for it.

#3 - Route or Schedule Changes

DOT now requires airlines to give you prompt notification of delays, cancellations and route changes. Unfortunately, while notification is required, airlines can still change your routing drastically, for example from a nonstop flight to one involving several connections, even if the airline still flies the original nonstop route. You can call the airline and demand a more suitable routing or request a full refund of the fare (which the airline should give you without imposing any cancellation penalties).

#4 – Getting Bumped from a Flight

The best way to avoid getting bumped from a flight is to always make sure you have a seat reserved at the time you book the ticket.  However if you do get bumped from a domestic flight and arrive late you’re entitled to cash compensation.

- If you arrive one to two hours later than your scheduled arrival time, you’re entitled to the one-way fare of your ticket up to $400.

- If you’re delayed two to four hours from your original arrival time, you’re entitled to 200% of the one-way fare, up to $650.

- If more than four hours, you’re entitled to 400% of the one-way fare, up to $1300.

If the airline tries to give you a voucher, insist on cash, since vouchers usually come with restrictions.

#5 – Any other airline issues – such as the case I had with Frontier Airlines when I was cancelled off one of their flights apparently because they had booked me on an illegal connection, but they failed to notify me of the cancellation and I showed up at the airport with my kids. I filed a grievance with the DOT and got my money back.  The DOT will step in and ensure the airline responds directly within 30 days to any complaint filed but in my experience I heard back in 48 hours and found them to be exceptionally helpful.  For more details people can go to