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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Alaska, American, Southwest, and United Airlines for failing to let customers know they could receive compensation if they were bumped from their flight, or if their baggage was lost or stolen.
The government regulates how much compensation passengers receive if they're involuntarily bumped from a flight, as well as baggage losses. In exchange, they let the airlines overbook their flights to account for last minute changes or no-shows.
What Are Airlines Required To Do?
Per the DOT, airlines must give passengers a written statement describing compensation they can receive if they’ve been bumped from their flight, along with the airline’s boarding rules. The airlines must also provide this information to anyone requesting it at all ticket selling locations and all of the carrier’s boarding areas.
The amount of compensation you receive as a passenger varies, depending on the amount of time it takes the airline to get you to your final destination. For more information about compensation for an overbooked flight, check out FlyRights on the DOT’s website.
You may remember, about a month ago, a new law that will refund passengers if they don’t receive their baggage within 12 hours of arrival for a domestic flight, and 15 hours for an international flight. Also, passengers can claim up to $3,500 for lost or stolen luggage. The carriers must include notice of this luggage liability limit on or with the passenger’s ticket.
This investigation was part of the “Task Force Lightning”, conducted by the DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings at various US airports. During the inspections, these four airlines were found to have given passengers inaccurate information or failed to provide them with the information altogether.
What Should You Do?
It’s important to know your rights if you’re denied boarding. While you can’t entirely avoid it, there are a few things you can do to decrease the chances of being “bumped” from your flight.
- Check in early
- Select your seat in advance
- Fly during non-peak times, if possible. If you can book flights for Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays, there’s less of a risk of overbooking
There is no guarantee, but every bit can help. The carrier may offer to reimburse you with vouchers or a free ticket if your flight is overbooked. If you would rather receive compensation in the form of a check, you may request it instead.
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