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Lifestyle & Budget

Know Your Rights Before Flying



Travelers last week found themselves stranded at airports from Texas to Boston, as snow, sleet and ice covered states all across the country.

A reported 13,000 flights were canceled due to the “Groundhog Day Blizzard” last week. This isn’t winter’s first brutal storm, and surely won’t be its last, so passengers should be aware of their rights when flying.

Joe Apelian, owner of Blue Skies Travel Agency, Inc., in the Bronx, N.Y., said passenger rights are often varied depending on the conditions of a flight’s delay or cancellation. If an airline overbooks, passengers will be asked to volunteer to take a different flight, and will be compensated with money or trip vouchers. If no one takes the bait, the offer is typically upped, Apelian said.

“If it’s the airline’s own doing, they are more accommodating,” Apelian said. “It’s an unwritten law, but it usually happens.”

The same is not uncommon when a plane has a mechanical problem, Apelian said. If passengers are in a foreign port of call, an airline will typically offer food vouchers at the airport and in some cases even put them up in a hotel.

Weather conditions, on the other hand, are out of an airline’s control, and they won’t be quick to compensate for such inconveniences.

“Weather is an act of God,” he said. “It’s not their fault, and they don’t like to be held responsible.”

Apelian said typically, airlines handle weather-forced cancellations by putting folks on the next available flight. Most tickets are nonrefundable; however, if a passenger cannot take the next available flight, a refund may be in order.

 “Not everybody is forceful,” Apelian said. “Sometimes they just go with the flow. Usually, with a little bargaining and a little screaming and yelling, they can get what they want.”

Follow Kate Rogers on Twitter at @KateRogersNews

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