Your Rights When Flights Are Delayed: All About Rule 240
Department of Transportation. You
thought this summer was bad? Well, fasten your seatbelts; it's going
to be a bumpy ride for many years to come. Mind you, this isn't even
factoring in possible labor strife at the airlines. Hence, the United Airlines -- or
shall I say 'Divided Airlines?' -- tete-a-tete with its pilots and
mechanics. Who said travel was glamorous? The last glamorous piece
of aviation, the Concorde, is now parked in the U.K and France.
Overall, it has been a terrible summer. That being said, there are
some things you can do as an airline passenger to make your flights
less turbulent. The following tidbits and advice are timeless;
therefore, it all bears repeating. One more thing, if you are flying
this summer hold on to your sense of humor. You'll need
E-Tickets -- "Fugghettaboutem"
If you are
flying an airline with serious schedule problems (such as United
Airlines or America West), you should probably have a paper ticket.
E-tickets won't help you should you need to fly another carrier. If
your flight is delayed or canceled, you have more options with a
The Big Kahuna -- Rule 240
short, Rule 240 isn't really a rule; it's a term. It was a rule in
the days of governmental airline regulation, but after deregulation
in 1978, such rules were no longer enforceable. Most airlines,
however, continue to abide by the old rules even though they
"technically" don't have to. It's just good business for the
airlines to do so.
Simply put, Rule 240 states that an
airline must deliver you to your destination within two hours of the
originally scheduled arrival time. If they cannot, they must place
you on another carrier.
Under Rule 240, you are also entitled to
a meal voucher, a free phone call, and a lounge pass.
important to remember, though, that Rule 240 applies only to
mechanical delays, or delays that are completely the fault of the
airline, and not to weather-related delays. You'll want to become
familiar with the term force majeur. A force majeur is
any condition beyond the airline's control. These include weather,
acts of God, riots, civil commotion, embargoes, wars, hostilities,
disturbances, unsettled international conditions, and any strike,
work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor-related
dispute involving or affecting the airline's service, etc.
This is where things get interesting. United Airlines
updated their Rule 240 on March 29 of this year to include the
following: "Any shortage of labor, fuel or facilities of United
Airlines or others" (paragraph "I," section 4). Frankly, a pilot
shortage is the fault of the airline. This isn't a strike, which is
a whole different situation. Lawsuits have already been filed in
court about United's inability to provide service. Clearly, United
Airlines knew back in March that it was going to have a problem
filling the cockpits. To their credit they are cutting two thousand
flights in September so they can become more "reliable."
you become a victim of a force majeur event, you are
unfortunately at the mercy of the airline. Airlines can cancel,
terminate, divert, postpone, or delay any flight without notice in
these situations. The airline's only obligation is to refund the
price of your ticket, depending on its individual policy and
agreements with other carriers. Many airlines will try to
accommodate you the best they can, but Rule 240 does not require
them to do so in the case of a force majeur.
If you think only United
Airlines encounters pilot shortages, I have a bridge in Brooklyn
that I'll sell you. Airlines are reluctant to train too many pilots
because training is so expensive. However, given the current
customer fallout in response to pilot shortages, it might be cheaper
for them to so do in the long run.
It is best not to fly the
last week of the month. If an airline does not have enough pilots to
cover all the necessary flights, the schedule at the end of the
month will be especially sparse. This can also carry over into the
very beginning of the month. In addition, when an airline is
retiring an aircraft from the fleet there can be some scheduling
problems, which can also result in a lack of available pilots.
Pilots are only allowed to fly a certain number of "flight"
hours per month. This varies from airline to airline, with the
majority being around eighty hours a month. This ends up being about
sixteen days of flying. If eighty hours of "block time" a month
might not sound like a lot to you, keep this in mind. "Block time"
is measured from when the aircraft door shuts to when it opens. This
is how pilots and flight attendants are paid. This does not include
time spent sitting around in airports or when the plane is simply
sitting at the gate. If the door is not shut, the flight crew is not
paid. I can tell you as a former flight attendant, I hated sitting
around like that because it was very frustrating and unproductive.
With record load factors, delays, and skyrocketing consumer
complaints, it always works to your advantage to educate yourself on
important consumer issues.
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