Rule 240: When and How To Use It
(July 31, 2002)
Floating in a boat in the middle of Lake Tahoe,
relaxing for one last time before leaving the following morning, I
became startled by an unwelcoming cell phone ring. It was Frontier
Airlines calling to give me the bad news that my 11:40 a.m. flight
had been cancelled due to a "mechanical" problem. Frontier wanted to
book me on its 7 a.m. flight to Denver then to Chicago. I asked if
there was a later flight within two hours of my original flight. The
agent said there was one, but it was sold out. I then asked about
being put on another carrier, but the agent told me that wouldn't be
possible. Then I politely said, "What about Rule 240?"
all airlines are alike
In the last few months, I've had
two experiences of how individual airlines deal with Rule 240, the
part of your contract that tells you what your airline must do if
its flight is delayed or cancelled. What I've found is that one
airline (US Airways) automatically invoked Rule 240, whereas the
other (Frontier) needed prodding before it would give
Rule 240 differs slightly from airline to airline, but
the core of the rule is the same. By and large, the rule governs the
airline's responsibility and passenger rights concerning flight
delays, cancellations, and misconnections. In the case of US
Airways, I was placed on another airline's flight from Atlanta to
Pittsburgh without even asking. However, with Frontier, I had to ask
and be persistent until they eventually put me on a 9:20 a.m. Delta
flight through Salt Lake City then onto Chicago.
couldn't help feeling sorry for my fellow Frontier passengers who
accepted the late-night flight the airline offered. They didn't know
to ask to be placed on another carrier, much less for meals or a
hotel, which they might have been entitled to under the
Rule 240 basics
Rule 240 applies only to
delays that are absolutely the airline's fault, such as the
mechanical problems. It does not apply to what the airlines call
"force majeure" events, which include weather, strikes, or other
occurrences that the airlines say they cannot control.
Rule 240 incident occurs, the airline must do everything in its
power to get you to your final destination within a two-hour span.
Airlines typically try to confirm you on their next available flight
to your destination. Under the rule, the flight must be in the same
or higher class, at no additional cost to you. If this is not
available or acceptable to you, the airline will confirm you on the
next available flight on a different airline.
Knowing the basics can give you an advantage.
Lastly, always remember to call the
airline the day before your flight to check its status. More
importantly, when you leave home, make sure to give the airline your
cell phone or contact number. It goes without saying: If the airline
can't contact you, then you could end up with an unpleasant surprise
at the airport.
- Be cordial when speaking to airline agents. Don't assume that
they will know what Rule 240 is. If you don't think the agent
understands what you are referring to, ask to speak to a
- Be specific. It helps to know the flight schedule of the
airline and other airlines that offer flights to your destination.
Keep in mind that being placed on another carrier will depend upon
availability and the ticketing arrangements the airlines have with
each other. There are some airlines that won't accept other
- If your flight is delayed more than a few hours, ask for a
club pass, meal voucher, and a phone call.
- If you aren't in your hometown and your flight is delayed more
than four hours, the airline will provide you a hotel room along
with transportation to and from the airport.
- If you object to any of the alternatives, the airline must
refund your money. Often, the agent will give you the option to
keep your ticket and use it when you are ready to travel again
(within a year).
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