US flight delay compensation

Maybe not everyone but roughly over 900 000 airline passengers per year qualify for some sort of compensation when their flights have been delayed. According to Henrik Zillmer, founder, and CEO of Airhelp, only 15% of total passengers receive compensation. The rest 85% is left with no money because of the following reasons: they do not know about their rights or they do not know how to file the complaint in the right way. But don’t worry – this article will explain to you how to deal with US flight delay compensation.

Ok, so now let’s start with our topic. The question is: why do most passengers not file a claim with a US airline? It is because there are few mandatory regulations mandating that the airlines compensate their passengers. They also do not know that they are entitled to some sort of compensation.

Airlines do not openly advertise this aspect of air travel. In fact, some go to great lengths to hide the rights of passengers and place any brochures in a discreet location at their ticket counters.

Then US regulations only state a minimum for US flight delay compensation. If airlines can get you to your destination within one hour of your appointed arrival, then there is no compensation. Airlines get to use their discretion if they are going to compensate you or not.

The differences between EU and US flight delay compensation

It doesn’t matter if you are on an EU airline or not and it does not matter if you start or end your trip in a non-EU country. You are entitled to up to approx. 600 EUR in compensation. The price of your ticket does not matter either.

The EU provides more rights and protections to its passengers than the American government does for its people. Along with the approx. 600 EUR in compensation, the airline still has to honor your ticket.

To know all the details you need to do a little research on EU compensation and its laws. My article about the flight delay compensation step by step for EU flights should give you a detailed view on this topic.

This is completely different in the United States. You are not governed by the rules regulating US flight delay compensation.

Even with rights you still need to be reasonable

There are situations where compensation is not going to be paid and you should not expect any compensation when flying US airlines outside of the EU. They are as follows and are called extraordinary circumstances:

  • Weather –  it is better to be safe than sorry. Certain weather conditions are just too dangerous for flights to take off or land.
  • Air Traffic Control delays – The air traffic controller sees all and knows all concerning airplanes, flight patterns and how full or empty they are. If they deem the air space around an airport is too crowded, then they will not grant permission for your plane to take off.
  • Airport equipment failure – This could range from baggage conveyor systems to runway lights to other equipment used at an airport. If something breaks and it is outside of your airline’s control, then do not expect any compensation.
  • You changed your schedule – or your appointment changed it. These changes are outside of the airline’s control and they are not liable for your delays. This also means that the bad traffic you experience when en route to the airport will not be enough reason for you to be compensated. You may want to sue the cab company or maybe your wife for being slow 🙂
  • When the take-off schedule changes – Even though a flight has been delayed, you should still check in at the gate at the appointed time on your ticket. Sometimes announced delays are cleared up faster than expected and the flights are put back to their original schedule.

If Laws are Broken

Both the EU and the US have certain laws that regulate the airline industries and US flight delay compensation. If these laws are broken, then you may be able to apply for and receive some form of compensation. As stated earlier, it all depends on your airline, its origination, and destination.

Here are some of the legal situations where you can apply for compensation:

  1. If EU laws are broken. You can read them at this link.
  2. If US Transportation laws are broken. See this link.
  3. Broken seats – speak up as the airline may not know it is broken.
  4. Broken airline equipment – such as air conditioning, foot rests, arm rests and so on.
  5. Poor service – but it is not just your opinion that matters. It really has to be poor service. Though spilled wine or soft drinks will not get you much if any compensation.
  6. Airline delays – computer outages, lack of airline crew members, maintenance and equipment repairs and so on.

These are the types of illegal situations where you can request some sort of compensation. Remember though if you are outside of the EU and flying only US airlines in the US or non-EU destinations, then it is up to the discretion of the airlines how much compensation you will receive. US flight delay compensation is not mandatory.

The Montreal Convention has the rules and situations outlined.

Here are other situations where you may expect to receive compensation

Here are the different situations where you can final a compensation claim:

  • Delayed or canceled domestic US flights – even though there is no law forcing airlines to provide compensation, the different airlines do have company policies outlining their compensation packages.
  • Unaccompanied minors – even for young children there are no American laws mandating compensation. This is up to the discretion of the airlines.
  • Delays of non-domestic US flights – the compensation amount is up to the country you are flying to and the airlines.
  • Overbooking & Involuntary bumping – airlines are required to offer compensation when asking for volunteers to give up their seats when the flight is overbooked. The one-hour delay is the key time frame here. You can read more about it in my article about denied boarding compensation.

As with all situations, there are always some exceptions to the rules. For example, charter flights or those flights that hold less than 30 passengers.

Volunteer Bumping

There are some important things to be aware of if you accept the airlines offer and volunteer to be delayed.

  1. You are no longer eligible for compensation under the involuntary bumping category.
  2. You can negotiate with the airline the amount of compensation you will receive.

Under number 2, there are 6 points you need to consider BEFORE you voluntarily allow the airline to bump you:

  • Make sure you can get a confirmed seat on a later flight and the arrival time will meet your schedule.
  • Consider a plan B if the airline cannot find a seat for you on a later flight.
  • Make sure the airline will cover your costs while waiting for your next flight. For example, hotel, food, and other reasonable expenses.
  • Is the compensation you get more than an involuntary passenger would get when they are bumped.
  • What restrictions and limitations apply to your new travel details and other compensations.
  • Get the compensation immediately and make sure it is all in writing.

How to get your compensation package

There is always a correct way and a wrong way to apply for US flight delay compensation. Here are those steps:

  1. Be brief – do not over-fill the complaint with every little thing that went wrong. You will lose credibility if you do. Stick to the truth and the facts. Plus, make sure they are actual violations (see above). You are not writing a book here.
  2. Kill your emotions – be calm, professional and do not let your temper get out of control. Airlines have rules and regulations to follow and your application only suffers if you lose control. Avoid using all caps as well.
  3. Be reasonable – you need to know what you want to receive in return for your delay. Airline employees cannot read minds and you need to tell them what you think is fair compensation. Don’t make things tougher on yourself by being unreasonable and incapable of negotiation.
  4. Find the one in charge – it does no good complaining to someone who can’t do anything for you. Ask for a supervisor or someone in authority who has the power to pay you reasonable compensation. Reasonable compensation does not include first class tickets to anywhere in the world.
  5. Keep your written records – you cannot prove you deserve compensation when you have no evidence that you were delayed or inconvenienced. Make sure you keep every scrap of paper related to your flight and delay, including boarding passes, tickets, baggage claim tickets, even original confirmations for booking.
  6. Do not leave the airport – or where you were first told that there is a problem. Speak to the right people where you are and get the ball rolling.
  7. Don’t let gate or ticket agents pass the buck – in other words, do not follow their advice to complain when you land in the next city. Do it where you are at. The people who had nothing to do with the delay or bumping cannot help you.
  8. Use social media – not your own but go to the airline’s social media teams and complain directly to them. It can be on Twitter or Facebook. Your cause is hurt if you go public too soon.
  9. File an official complaint – if you fail to resolve your problem at the airport, you may want to file a complaint with the airline. Check the airline’s website if they have a special form to do this and if not, then email or write to the airline’s consumer office at its corporate headquarters. If even this will not help, then try to file your complaint via the Department of Transportation using this link.

Some Final Words

Being delayed can be a bit of a problem. You may lose connections, miss out on an important business event or deal and so on. Remember this is not a new thing. Airlines have delayed people for decades. I hope now you know your rights and how to get US flight delay compensation when wrongfully delayed.

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