While US regulations do not protect air passenger rights the same way as Europe does, travelers are still protected against some disruptions that occur on domestic flights in the US. Learn how to claim a US flight compensation.

 

Your Air Passenger Rights in the USA

US regulations offer compensations even higher than those in Europe. But the conditions to be eligible are slightly different.

 

What Flights Are Covered in the USA?

It depends on the nature of the disruption. US regulations cover:

  • Flights departing from or flying to a US airport for tarmac delays

  • Domestic flights (from one US city to another) operated by US carriers for luggage problems

  • Domestic flights and flights departing from the US operated by US carriers for denied boarding

 

US Flights and Overbooking

Airlines sometimes sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane, to ensure that it will fly at full capacity even if some passengers don’t show up. As a result, some travelers can be denied boarding once they arrived at the airport.

US regulations cover passengers who were denied boarding because the airline overbooked their flight, at the condition that they did not surrender their seat voluntarily in exchange for a refund, airline miles or another benefit.

 

US Flight Overbooking and Compensation

The amount of the compensation that you are entitled to in case of boarding denial depends on the following:

  • Whether your flight was an international flight or a US domestic flight.

  • The arrival time at your destination (if you accept to be re-routed). Passengers who decide to make their own arrangement are compensated with the full refund of their ticket, called “involuntary refund”.

  • The price of your ticket.

 

Check the table below to know the amount you are entitled to:

 

   Type of flight

   Delay at your destination compared to your scheduled flight

   0-1 hour       

   1-2 hours

   2-4 hours

   More than 4 hours

   Domestic flight

   No compensation   

   200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675)

   400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350)

   400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350)

   International    flight    

   No compensation   

   200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675)

   200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675)

   400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350)

 

Should the airline not organize any substitute travel arrangements, you are entitled to 400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (not exceeding $1350) when the airline doesn’t organize other travel arrangements for you.

The airline must also pay you back the additional services of your original flight (seat upgrade, checked luggage, etc.) if you do not receive these services on your alternate flight or are required to pay a second time.

In cases where your ticket doesn’t have a price (e.g. a frequent flyer award ticket), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight. For instance, let’s imagine that you got a free ticket in first class and you are denied boarding. If the cheapest ticket for a first class seat on this flight was sold at $400, you compensation will be calculated based on this amount.

Do keep in mind that airlines may offer free tickets or dollar-amount vouchers for future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily, you have the right to insist on a check if that is your preference. Once you cash the check (or accept the free flight), you lose the ability to pursue more money from the airline later on.

 

How to Claim Compensation for an Overbooked US Flight?

Keep all documents related to your flight and/or any alternative flights. These include your boarding pass, your e-ticket, booking confirmation, luggage tag, etc.
You also need to keep your receipts for additional expenses, which resulted because of the boarding denial.

Each airline is required to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't.

Keep this document, as it qualifies you for a denied boarding compensation even if the airline can't find your reservation in the computer.

The time limit to claim compensation for your boarding denial depends on the airline’s policy. Refer to their contract of carriage on their website. We strongly recommend that you submit a claim soon after the events occurred.

If the airline offered you a check but you want to negotiate for a larger compensation, you have 30 days from the date on the check to accept it. Beyond this date, you may surrender your right to compensation.

Learn more about your air passenger rights when you are denied boarding.

 

US Flights and Luggage Problems

Even when you make it to your destination without problem, your flight might still be disrupted by the loss, delay or damage of your luggage. US regulations cover the rights of passengers who experience these kinds of issues.

The airline must repair or replace the damaged luggages that were under their care, carry-on or checked. If they don’t, they have to compensate you for the bag. However, the regulations do not state a specific compensation amount: it remains at the discretion of the airline.

Should your luggage be delayed, the airline must provide replacements of your essential items or compensate you for them. They must also give you with information on the location of your bag.

If it turns out that your luggage is lost, the airline must compensate you both for the value of your bag and its content. Note that you will probably be asked to provide proof of your lost belongings and their value.

 

Compensation for Luggage Problem on US Flight

The maximum amount which you can claim under US regulations for a luggage problem on a US flight is $3,500. The actual amount you will get depends on your negotiation with the airline and your ability to prove the value of the items your lost.

If you are bringing items with a value over $3,500 you can pay for additional coverage when you check your bags at the airport. If your luggage gets delayed, lost or damaged, you can then be compensated at a higher value.

 

How to Claim Compensation for a Luggage Problem on a US Flight?

Keep all your travel documents with you, including boarding passes, e-tickets, luggage tag, receipt etc.

List all of the belongings in your luggage. If you have pictures of your packed luggage, it will help support your claim. The same goes with receipts of your items, to prove their value.

Let the airline know about the problem, fill a Property Irregularity Report and submit your claim.

The amount of time you have to file a claim varies from one airline to another, so make sure to check their policy on the matter. Generally, the sooner you submit the claim, the better, so try to do it while you’re still at the airport.

 

Delayed US Flights

One of the main difference between the regulation applicable in Europe and US regulations is that the latter do not provide for the payment of a compensation in the case of delayed flights, no matter the reason.

However, in the case of long tarmac delays, US regulations cover your passenger rights. It means that if you are stuck in the plane, the airline must respect the following rights.

The airline must provide food, water, access to the toilets and medical attention (if necessary) within 2 hours of the start of the delay.

It must give passengers a status update every 30 min and the reason for the delay if it is known.

In addition, the airline is required to let you off the plane after 3 hours for domestic flights or 4 hours for international flights. Do note that in the eventuality that doing so would pose a security problem or air traffic control disruptions, the airline is authorized to keep you longer in the plane.

 

Compensation for US Flight Delays

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) indeed states that “for domestic itineraries airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled”.

In other words, it is entirely up to the airline to decide whether to compensate you for the trouble or not. If you’re a frequent flyer, you can try to negotiate for at least a few miles, but keep in mind that the airline isn’t required to pay you anything.

 

How to Claim Compensation for a Delayed US Flight?

Since no compensation is planned by US regulations, the best hope you have is to go to the airline’s counter at the airport and try to negotiate for some sort of advantage.

In the case of an international flight, you may be eligible to compensation under the Montreal Convention. If your flight included a stop in Europe, the Regulation (EC) 261/2004 may be of some help.

Learn more about your air passenger rights when your flight is delayed.

 

Cancelled US Flights

Just like delays, US regulations do not cover flight cancellations, the argument being that “airlines don’t guarantee their schedules”.

The airline is expected to rebook you on their next available flight to your destination, assuming that there are still seats available, at no extra cost. This may include a significant delay, which is why you should feel free to look for seats on flights operated by another carrier and ask the airline if they can take the cost at their charge. Just remember that federal laws do not compel them to do so.

What the DOT recommends to passengers flying for important reasons is to book early flights, in the eventuality of a delay or cancellation.

 

Compensation for US Flight Cancellations

No financial compensation is planned by US federal laws in case of cancellation. At best, you can hope to be rebooked on another flight and be offered a meal voucher and drink at the airport.

 

How to Claim Compensation for a Cancelled US Flight?

Just like flight delays, since no compensation is planned for cancellations, you can only hope to get some sort of compensation (such as airline miles) by going to the airline’s counter at the airport. If you’re a frequent flyer, the airline may be more inclined to compensate you.

In the case of an international flight, you may be eligible to compensation under the Montreal Convention. If your flight included a stop in Europe, the Regulation (EC) 261/2004 may be of some help.

Learn more your air passenger rights when your flight is cancelled.

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