After the Storm: Know Your Passenger Rights

Over a million travelers were left hanging out to dry after a nightmare snowstorm forced over 8,000 flight cancellations over the past week. If your flight was delayed or cancelled you may be feeling shortchanged or mistreated, so here is the low down on how you can recoup your losses and get the treatment you deserve.

Ticket Change Fees
Since most airlines opted to waive any fees associated with ticket changes, no traveler who was stranded during the storm should have to pay a fee. If you notice an additional charge on your credit card, get in touch with your airline. Customer service representatives had to deal with an avalanche of requests as a result of the storm, and mistakes happen.

Hotel Compensation
If the storm forced you to stay the night at a hotel and you were compensated, consider yourself very lucky. Unfortunately, if you ended up having to fork over cash for a hotel room there really is little you can do to get your money back. Airlines are simply not required to cover costs that result from circumstances beyond the company's control.

Meals, Upgrades & Other Freebies
When travelers get stuck, many people immediately assume the airline should owe them something. A hot meal, a voucher for a future upgrade, or even a drink at the airport bar would do a lot to ease our nerves. But just the same as hotel compensation, airlines are not obligated to do anything but get us from point A to point B--eventually.

Lost Baggage
If an airline lost your bag in all of the chaos, you do have some rights. First of all, let it be known that airlines typically return 98 percent of all misplaced luggage. Someone should deliver the bag to you--rarely is it ever requested a passenger pick up their own luggage from the airport. If your bag does not turn up, get a written claim for damages. Baggage liability is capped at $3,300 per person on domestic flights, and you may be asked to produce receipts to prove the value of items in your suitcase. Airlines also do not typically cover items such as jewelry and other valuables, which should be packed in your carry-on baggage. Check with individual airlines to find out how to follow through with lost bags.

Traveler Tip: Use E-Mail
Picking up a phone and calling an airline might seem like the most straightforward way to deal with your airline-related skirmishes, but in many cases sending an e-mail can actually be a better method. E-mails allow you to put your story out there and make requests without having to deal with a condescending or overworked customer service representative, and when all is said and done you will have a nice tidy record of what has been promised.

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