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A Need to Know Guide for Your Next Flight

The holiday season is upon us. And with it, holiday travel. Whether you have to fly across the state or the country, it’s nice to see family but not always fun to get there. Large crowds, inflated ticket prices and tons of Christmas music – it can be a headache. And even worse when see that dreaded word, ‘delayed’ once you get to the airport. SmartAsset has you covered. Brush up on your passenger rights, and enjoy every bit of that well-deserved time off.

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Particularly during the holidays, when hoards of people are squeezing into airports, airlines tend to overbook. When that happens, you may find yourself being bumped off of a flight. The airline most definitely owes you more than apology.

What you end up receiving will differ according to airline, and whether you had an international or domestic flight booked. According to Airfare Watchdog, here are some general rules about getting bumped, and what you may be offered in return:

  • If your airline gets you to your destination within one to two hours of your arrival time for domestic flights, and between two and four for international, you are owed 200% of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $650. If they get you there sooner, you are not owed compensation
  • If they cannot meet those requirements, they owe you 400%of the one-way fare, up to $1,300.
  • Many airlines offer tickets to later flights and/or vouchers toward future tickets and meals, which can be worth hundreds of dollars. Plus, you get to keep your original ticket.

Related Article: How to Get Cheap Flights

Flight Delays and Cancellations

A Need to Know Guide for Your Next Flight

Remember when you booked, and the ticket claimed it was ‘nonrefundable?’ Forget about that if your flight was canceled or significantly delayed. Be aware, however, that airlines will create the biggest loophole they can in their definitions of what a ‘significant delay’ is.

Some airlines call for hotel vouchers, others for transfers to other airlines.  Each airline has its own list of legal-language-laden rules for what happens in the event of delays and cancellations, so its important to do some homework.

SmarterTravel has an awesome guide to help you navigate your way through through the rules and regulations. LifeHacker also has some tips on what to do if your flight is canceled, including how to go about getting your hotel in the event that your flight definitely isn’t happening.

Related Article: What’s the Best Day to Buy Plane Tickets?

Tarmac Delays

A Need to Know Guide for Your Next Flight

This is the sort of delay I fear most. Being trapped on a motionless or taxiing airplane for hours with increasingly grumpy people has got to be some sort of fresh hell.

The Department of Transportation requires that the flight crew updates its passengers every half-hour, provides food and water after 2 hours, ensures that bathrooms are available, and can only keep you 3 hours on a domestic flight. For international flights, they cannot keep you on board past 4 hours.

If the airline doesn’t honor these rights, however, you don’t receive compensation. The DOT will instead fine the airline. Fines suck for the airline, but that probably won’t make you feel any less claustrophobic in the event of a tarmac delay.

Tweet It From the Rooftops!

When all else fails, and you are frustrated beyond belief, take to Twitter. Try politely bringing up your issues about airlines on social media accounts in order to get some results. Make sure you tweet to the correct handle – see that it’s one that replies directly to customers. Recently, I saw a tweet from Seth Rogen complaining on his wife’s behalf about United Airlines. Public shaming can be useful in demanding some corporate responsibility.


The holidays are a crazy, insane, temper-inducing time. Let’s not even look up the bump in accidents and homicide rates during this season. Of course, if you can avoid traveling all together, you’re lucky. But if you absolutely have to, just brace yourself;  do what it is that works for you to keep calm, find you inner peace, or whatever.

This sounds trite, but we all know it is solid advice in just about any situation. Bring a funny book, your favorite music, or travel with someone you know keeps you calm. Do it for yourself, and for the rest of us, please.

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Kirsten Jadoo Kirsten Jadoo is a writer and voracious reader. She is an expert in home buying, credit and budgeting. Kristin's passions for food and travel leave her in constant search of creative ways to make and save more money.
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