Fliers' rights: knowing the rules

The Department of Transportation is dealing with an increased number of consumer complaints against U.S. airlines. Numbers were up 40 percent in June compared to a year ago.

So exactly what sort of rights do fliers have? They’re all clearly spelled out in something called a contract of carriage. The only problem, the document is 45 pages long and most have never heard of it.

“A lot of airline employees don't know what's in the contract,” said George Hobic, president of “If you have a copy of it and can cite chapter and verse you are much better off.”

In this contract, The Department of Transportation requires airlines to:

• Pay up to $1,300 if you’re involuntarily bumped from a flight.

• Compensate you if your bag is lost or its delivery is significantly delayed.

You also have the right to:

• Ask to get off the airplane after three hours on the tarmac, four hours on an international flight.

• If your flight is canceled or severely delayed, you can demand a refund, even on a non-refundable ticket. Or at your request, some airlines will attempt to rebook on another airline.

• If your flight is canceled and you’re stranded, don’t expect a hotel stay unless it was a problem with the airlines’ equipment or it was their mistake.

If you’d like to see the contract of carriage for your favorite airline, check out

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