7 Times
 Your Airline
 Likely
 Owes You 
Money

If something 
goes wrong with your flight, your carrier might be legally required to compensate you.

You’re bumped from a flight

times-the-airline-likely-owes-you-moneyanucha maneechote/shutterstock

By law, your carrier has to make it up to you. It's just one of the things your airline won't tell you, but every flier should know. The rules are very specific. Assuming the airline doesn’t get you to your destination within an hour of your original arrival time, you’re entitled to double the one-way fare, up to $675, according to Department of Transportation regulations. If you arrive more 
than two hours late, it’s four times the fare, up to $1,350. Ask the desk agent nicely and you might be 
able to secure meal vouchers as 
well, though the law doesn’t require that they be provided.

You volunteer your seat

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Flight overbooked? Make sure you know your rights as a passenger before making any decisions. If you do give up your seat, the airline will know your good deed prevented 
others from being involuntarily bumped, and your heroism should be rewarded generously. United 
Airlines offers volunteers up to $10,000 for giving up their seats—
no joke—but your compensation 
will likely be much less. The amount depends on what you can negotiate and how badly the carrier needs 
your seat. Ask for cash (though the law doesn’t mandate that you get it); vouchers often come with blackout dates and other restrictions.

The flight is delayed or canceled

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Unfortunately, you’re not entitled to much, especially if 
severe weather or air traffic control issues are to blame, not the airline. 
If the holdup was caused by a 
mechanical failure or crew delay, 
you might be able to negotiate a voucher to spend at the airport or, 
if it’s a late-night flight, a stay at a nearby hotel. Otherwise, try these tips to make the most of your time when you're bored in the airport. Keep in mind that airlines aren’t required to compensate you at all. Most will rebook you on their first flight to your destination on which space is available (but 
even this isn’t required).

You miss a connection

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What you’re entitled to varies by 
airline, and the law requires each carrier to outline which services it will provide. It doesn’t hurt to try 
negotiating a meal voucher or, 
if there are no flights until the 
morning, a hotel room.

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Your bag arrives late

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First things first: Follow these lost luggage guidelines the moment you think your bags are lost. If the baggage claim staff can locate your luggage and knows it will take a while to get to you, the airline is required to reimburse the “reasonable expenses” you incur while you wait. But there are many somewhat subjective factors that come into play, such as whether you’re away from home and how long it takes to track down your bags. If you’re on the road, the lost suit you’d planned to wear to a wedding or business meeting might be “reasonable,” but you’ll have to make your case. And don’t forget to save your receipts.

Your bag is lost

times-the-airline-likely-owes-you-moneyMaurizio Milanesio/shutterstock

Not pushing for compensation on lost luggage is one of the biggest airport mistakes you can make. Some 
airlines, such as United, will pay $1,500 for the value of the bag and 
its contents, no questions asked, if they can’t find your bag after three days. In other cases, you’ll have to file a claim for the contents of your bag, and the airline will pay you for its “depreciated value.” Still, the law 
allows for as much as $3,500 in 
compensation per person.

You’ve been otherwise inconvenienced

times-the-airline-likely-owes-you-moneyOlena Yakobchuk/shutterstock

Tons of things can go wrong when you travel by air, and the airline won’t necessarily volunteer how much you’re owed—and you might not be entitled to anything. But airlines know they’re in the customer service business, so ask about being compensated for your inconvenience. One especially effective method: Tweet your problem. Many airlines respond to complaints posted in a public forum; others may respond only to those placed through their stated preferred method of communication, which may be a feedback form or a telephone call. Give it a try before you give up.

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