Us Air Passenger Rights

What are US air passenger rights?

Unfortunately, US laws regarding passenger rights when your flight is delayed or canceled are not as extensive as European or international laws.

US laws are, however, beneficial to individuals who are denied boarding, passengers experiencing tarmac delays or travelers who experience luggage problems.

Denied boarding

Airlines in the US are more likely to overbook their flights than airlines in Europe. Consequently, there are strong laws in place governing your right to be compensated. If you are denied boarding due to overbooking in the US you could be entitled to up to $1,350 compensation. See our advice on overbooked flights for more information.

Tarmac delays

While US laws do not address delayed flights in general, there are laws concerning what happens if your flight is delayed on the tarmac. We recommend you read our blog about lengthy tarmac delays so you know your rights if it happens to you.

Luggage issues on US domestic flights

Passengers on US flights have a number of rights when it comes to banged-up, delayed, and lost bags. We go into a lot more detail on our baggage compensation page.

Which Flights are Covered by US Regulations?

The US tarmac delay regulations apply to any flight departing from or flying to a US airport, while boarding denial regulations apply to flights with US carriers originating in the United States.

The US laws regarding luggage problems deal with domestic flights with US carriers between US cities. International flights originating in the United States are covered by the Montreal Convention, in most cases.

What is the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty which has been adopted by over 130 countries around the world. Its aim is to establish airline liability in the case of flight delay and for damage or loss of baggage.

While it is designed as a universal treaty to govern airline liability around the world, it is not so comprehensive on flight disruption as Europe’s EC 261 regulation. However, it does offer rights to claim for damages for baggage and offers passengers rights on international flights between the large number of nations that honor the regulation.

What Rights are Covered by the Montreal Convention?

The 2003 Montreal Convention sets out passenger rights for several types of flight disruption: delays, flight cancellations, or boarding denials.

If you miss a pre-paid reservation, have to pay for an extra night at a hotel, or rack up any other unforeseen expenses due to air travel problems, you can get reimbursed. It’s usually necessary to provide documentation of the incident and proof of added expenses, so hold onto your receipts.

There are obviously a few caveats to consider, and passengers should note that only damages resulting from the disruption are covered.

The Montreal Convention uses the word “damages” to talk about what passengers are entitled to, but that is interpreted differently depending on where you are. In many jurisdictions like the United States, those “damages” are limited to monetary losses and don’t include psychiatric distress (unless they are a result of a physical injury). In other parts of the world, like the EU, a looser interpretation of the regulation allows passengers to claim for emotional damages. These distinctions are beyond the scope of this document though, and if you need more info, you might be better off seeking professional counsel.

The Montreal Convention also provides protection in the event of luggage issues, whether that’s damaged bags, delayed bags or lost luggage.

Be aware there are strict time limits on these laws, so you must file claims as soon as possible. Damaged baggage claims must be submitted within 7 days, delayed baggage within 21 days. Bags lost for longer 21 days are considered lost, and you will have 2 years to file a claim.

If this is not enough information and you would like to know exactly what the Montreal Convention says, you can read the actual text of the agreement here.

Which Flights are Covered by the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention applies to international flights between nations that honor the regulation. It was signed and is recognized by more than 130 countries (and counting) around the world, including the US and the EU. Most major airline markets are members with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Sri Lanka and Vietnam). The list of members does occasionally change as nations join in, which may not always be immediately reflected by the link above.

The Convention also applies if your departure and destination are both within a single member nation, but only when there is a planned stopover in a different country. For example, imagine that you’re flying between cities in a member nation such as China with a stopover in Vietnam. Your flight would be covered. But if you had a direct flight instead, with no stopover, it would not be an “international” flight and would not be covered.

This information was published by Air Help.


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