What Are My Rights as an Airplane Passenger?

Posted April 13, 2017

The recent events involving United Airlines and the violent removal of a passenger have everyone asking themselves, “What exactly are my rights as an airplane passenger?” or perhaps you’ve been in this situation before yourself and did not know what to do.

We’re here to help clear the air and give you the knowledge you need. We will go over the required laws and regulations put in place by the DOT. These regulations are in place to keep customers like you safe as well as the staff on the aircraft. To go over them, we will start with a few basic questions you may be asking.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, overbooking by airlines is not illegal. When this occurs, the crew on the aircraft should start by asking for people who are willing to voluntarily give up their seats. If the number of people willing to voluntarily give up their seats the aircraft can be on its way. If not, the airline must resort to involuntary bumping. Many of the laws put in place are there to ensure smooth operation among the airlines so that they can get you where you are going.


Voluntary vs Involuntary Bumping 

First, you need to understand the difference between voluntary and involuntary “bumping.” Involuntary bumping occurs when the airline has oversold the flight and in most cases, needs one of the seats to get a crew member to the airplane’s destination. Every airline has a process in place for involuntary bumping that chooses passengers based on a carefully calculated algorithm. The DOT requires that airlines comply and do their best to have crew members in place. Without adequate crew members, flights are delayed and air traffic gets messed up quick! Just think about a time when you had a delayed flight because a flight that was arriving was delayed, and so on and so forth.

Voluntary bumping is when a passenger, much like the name leads you to believe, voluntarily gives up their seat in exchange for compensation. This compensation is not regulated by the DOT and passengers should be ready to ask the right questions before voluntarily giving up their seat. Some examples would be “Does my voucher have an expiration date?” or “Are there any travel restrictions on my voucher?”

It is important to note, that in 2015, only 552 people out of 613,141 people were bumped from an aircraft, about 0.09%. So, although this issue may not end up directly affecting you it is still important to know what rights you have as a paying customer. However, in both cases, the airlines are acting completely within their bounds but you are still entitled to some form of compensation. To read more about the compensation benefits you are entitled to by law, visit the Fly Rights on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website. Although the DOT has laws put in place, each airline still has its own process for handling how to go about their bumping process. It is important to be aware of these processes prior to purchasing your airline tickets!

For specific information regarding the airlines that travel to and from Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville, NC you can visit them here:

Delta Airlines Customer Commitment

American Airlines Conditions of Carriage