Jan 10, 2017 | By: Benet Wilson:

The worst has happened: you’ve had a bad experience on your flight. You flight was canceled or delayed, your luggage was lost, a crew member was rude, you had a bad encounter ith a fellow passenger or there was an issue with booking your ticket.

No matter what the issue, all airlines have a contract of carriage and contact information for those wishing to complain. But sometimes it can be hard to get your issue resolved. Below are five companies that are here to help.


1. Airhelp

In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation created rules designed to protect and compensate travelers for issues including requiring airlines to reimburse passengers for bag fees if their bags are lost, provide consumers involuntarily bumped from flights more compensation, requiring airlines to disclose hidden fees and expanded prohibitions on U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from allowing an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours. But many travelers don’t know that they can be financially compensated for these issues, and those who do don’t want to go through the hassle to get it. Those who want to use AirHelp to chase down their compensation are asked five questions to see if they’re eligible. If yes, the company will pursue a claim in exchange for 25 percent of the value of successfully received claim. More »


2. Resolver

This UK-based company offers free information to travelers to help them with their airline-related issues. It offers guides in simple language that outline your consumer rights in every type of issue. Travelers can use a range of flexible email templates that are easily adaptable to specific needs. There’s a function where the website can automatically keep a record of all correspondence regarding a complaint. Users can create an online case file and upload important documents including photos, tickets, copies of receipts or external emails. And if you’re not satisfied with the initial response from the airline you’ve filed a complaint with, Resolver has an escalation process that lets you know when you can raise your complaint to the next level of seniority and, ultimately to an ombudsman or regulator, where appropriate. More »


3. ClaimAir

Most travelers don’t know that depending on the situation, they may be entitled to compensation when a flight is delayed or canceled, you’re bumped from a flight or your luggage is lost. And even those who know may not want to go through an airline’s long process to get the money they deserve. ClaimAir can help, but submitting a claim to airlines for a flat fee of $25 or a success fee of 25 percent of the total compensation. For $25, it will write a letter that fits your situation. But for the 25 percent, the company will take care of all communication with the airline. And bonus? ClaimAir only gets paid if it wins. More »


4. Blue Ribbon Bags

Did an airline lose your bag? Are you frustrated with the process to get it back? New York City-based Blue Ribbon Bags is making the process easier. Travelers pay $5 for $1,000 in insurance per bag. They can also pay $7.50 for $1,500 in coverage or $10 for $2,000 in coverage. Once luggage has been lost, travelers must file a claim with the airlines, then Blue Ribbon. After receiving a file reference number, call Blue Ribbon or file online at www.blueribbonbags.com and they take it from there. If your bag is still lost after four days, the company sends a check via FedEx. And if the airline finds the bag on the fifth day, the traveler can still keep the money. More »


5. Refund.Me

This global company helps air passengers to get compensation for airline issues. It uses data entered by travelers to see if they’re entitled to compensation and if so, how much they can expect. It automatically generates a claim letter with all the required details. If a claim is successful, refund.me keeps 25 percent of the compensation received. it works with claims valued up to €600 ($670). And the company doesn’t get paid if a claim is denied. More »



What Everyone Should Know About Lost Luggage

Tips on ways to get it back quickly
666-1013-A0704.jpg - Image courtesy of GraphicStock
Image courtesy of GraphicStock

You get off your flight and head straight to the baggage carousel. You wait with the rest of the passengers for your luggage to drop, and then it happens — the carousel stops, and your bags aren’t there. What do you do?

Go over to the airline’s baggage claim office and file a claim immediately. Make sure you give the agent the claim ticket, email them a photo of your lost luggage and get a copy of the report. It’s also good to write down the name of the baggage agent and get a specific phone number (not the airline’s general information number) to call to follow up on the progress for your baggage search. Also give the airline an address where they can deliver your luggage once it’s found.

Every airline gives you a copy of your luggage tag, and you should hang onto it. Travelers should also have a photo of their luggage and a list of items that have been packed (I use the Packing Pro iPhone app, which costs $2.99).

When my luggage was lost, I asked for money to buy a few essential items.

If they decline, get a list of items they will reimburse you for and remember — keep receipts of everything you buy. Keep checking in on the status of your bag.If your bag arrives, check immediately after it’s delivered to make sure it hasn’t been damaged and that none of your items are missing. If your bag is damaged or items are missing, ask the airline to pay for repairs and lost items. If the bag can’t be fixed, negotiate to be reimbursed for the damages. Also negotiate to be reimbursed for missing items.

But if the worst happens and your luggage is declared officially lost (usually after a week), submit a more detailed form to the airline that will estimate the value of the items in your baggage. According to the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement, the maximum you can receive from an airline for a lost bag and its contents is $3,300 per passenger on domestic flights, and $1,131 per passenger for checked baggage on international flights.

If that amount doesn’t cover everything that was lost, check your homeowners or renters insurance to see if your items are covered. And most credit cards have automatic baggage coverage if you bought your airline ticket on one.

Make sure your bag has a tag with your name, phone number and email address. Also drop a business card (with contact information to your destination city) inside your luggage just in case the tag is torn off.

Finally, don’t check in at the last minute, because your bag may not make it on the flight. Double check that you receive a claim check for every checked bag, and keep them until you receive all of your luggage. And make sure your bags are properly tagged to the correct city, and remove old bag tags. For more information on baggage rules, click here.


12 Things You Can Do To Handle Flight Delays And Cancellations

Handle It
Updated June 14, 2016.

Odds are if you are a regular traveler — and even if you’re not — you will eventually experience a flight delay. These delays are caused by things including weather, air traffic control issues, mechanicals, crew problems, delayed aircraft, and airport security, to name a few. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has a website with a great FAQ on delays and cancellations. But below are 12 things you can do to help minimize the effects of delays and cancellations.

1. Keep Your Travel Information In One Place

Having your travel information available quickly can be key in handling a delay or cancellation. Use a free app like TripIt to do things such as keep flight confirmation emails and create a master itinerary. With the pro version, get real-time flight alerts, locate alternate flights and share travel plans. More »

Young woman using cell phone while waiting for flight - Izabela Habur/E+/Getty Images
Izabela Habur/E+/Getty Images

2. Use Your Phone

In case of a flight delay or cancellation, you don’t want to be standing in a long line with others who are stranded. So bookmark this list of airline phone numbers compiled by travel expert Johnny Jet to beat the rescheduling crowd.

9965004755_5d1124c3bb_o.jpg - Photo by Benet J. Wilson
BA flight at Washington Dulles International Airport.Photo by Benet J. Wilson

3. Know Your Passenger Rights

Most airlines have what’s called a Contract of Carriage, which outlines what passengers’ rights are in case of things including delays and cancellations. Check out this handy list compiled by Airfarewatchdog with links to the contract for major U.S. and international carriers. And click here to see what things the airlines do that cause travelers to be dissatisfied.

4097831504_64a20f5654_o.jpg - Photo courtesy of Ninacoco via Flickr (http://bit.ly/Oqk1hJ)
iPhone apps. Photo courtesy of Ninacoco via Flickr (http://bit.ly/Oqk1hJ)

4. Download the NextFlight App

Sometimes when there’s a delay or cancellation, you need to take matters into your own hands. For those with iPhones or Android phones, pay $2.99 and download this app. You type in the city-pairs you want, add the date, and it will give you a list of the non-stop and connecting flights available. Use this information when you’re negotiating with an airline trying to re-accommodate you.

Businesswoman at airport between flights - Stephen Simpson/Iconica/Getty Images
Stephen Simpson/Iconica/Getty Images

5. Sign up for Airline Flight Status Notifications

Most airlines allow passengers to sign up for notifications by flight numbers. By doing this, you will always know where your flight is. And as a bonus, airlines will be proactive while you’re waiting to help accommodate you.

DOT-SEAL-BLUE-286.jpg - Courtesy of DOT
Courtesy of DOT

6. Look at Causes of Delay Numbers

DOT’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report includes a summary of causes of delay numbers reported by each carrier for the most recent month.

7. View Airline On-Time Statistics and Delay Causes

DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) tracks this data monthly, and breaks it down by airline, airport, and what caused the delay.

8. Use Intellicast to check on delays and cancellations

Intellicast helps travelers track airport delay and weather information by clicking on dots on a map, clicking on an airport name or using the airport search tool. More »

9. Go To Airline Websites For Weather Information

If the airlines know there’s going to be a major weather event like a hurricane or snow storm, they will post that information on their website.

Flight-In-Sight-TPA-ZoomIn.png - Courtesy of FlightView
FlightView’s Flight In-Sight. Courtesy of FlightView

10. Sign Up for FlightView

I did a post on this aviation data company here. One of the many things it does is offer flight notifications, and it even has the ability to tell you what’s happening with your inbound flight.

11. Go Directly to the Source: the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration offers travelers flight delay information directly from its Air Traffic Control System Command Center website. The website has a map of the United States that shows the nation’s major airport. You can look at that map and see delays by color code, or you can search by region, airport or major airport.

12. Use Your Airline Elite Status

I currently have A+ Rapid Rewards status on Southwest Airlines. One of the many perks is a dedicated phone number I can call if there are any flight issues. And because I have that status, like it or not, the airline will be more willing to accommodate me because of the money I spend with them.

Everything You Need to Know About the Airlines’ Rule 240

All About Rule 240
Photo by Benet J. Wilson
A flight information display board at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson
Updated January 16, 2016.

Edited by Benet Wilson

The worst has happened: your flight has been canceled and you’re stranded at the airport, wondering what you can do. If your cancellation was caused by the airline, you may get help from Rule 240.

What is Rule 240? It’s actually something that predates the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required carriers with delayed or canceled flights had to transfer travelers to another carrier if the second one could get them to their final destination more quickly than the original airline. But it does not cover things like weather, strikes or what the FAA calls “acts of God.”

But while the official FAA Rule 240 is no longer required, most airlines have switched to what they call a contract of carriage. This contract outlines what carriers will or will not do if your flight is canceled. Below are details and links to the contracts of carriage for the top five U.S. airlines for domestic flights.

  1. American Airlines contract of carriage: The carrier pledges to get you to your destination in a reasonable time, but warns that its timetables are not guaranteed and it reserves the right to substitute alternate carriers or aircraft and, if necessary, may alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket. Schedules are subject to change without notice.
  2. Delta Air Lines contract of carriage: Delta promises to use its best efforts to carry a passenger and their baggage with “reasonable dispatch.” Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. Delta may without notice substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, and may alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket in case of necessity. Schedules are subject to change without notice, and the airline notes that it is not responsible or liable for making connections, or for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule or any flight.
  3. United Airlines contract of carriage: United notes that times shown on tickets, timetables, published schedules are not guaranteed. It notes the right to substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, delay or cancel flights, and alter or omit stopping places or connections shown on a traveler’s ticket. The airline says it will promptly provide passengers the best available information on delays, cancellations, misconnections and diversions, but UA is not liable for any misstatements or other errors or omissions in connection with providing that information.
  4. Southwest Airlines contract of carriage: If your flight is cancelled, Southwest offers two options: get you on the next flight with available space or refund the unused part of the fare. The carrier notes that its flight schedules are subject to change without notice, and the times shown on schedules, tickets, and advertising are not guaranteed.
  5. JetBlue contract of carriage: travelers whose flight is canceled on the carrier have two options; get a full refund or, if it’s canceled within four hours of scheduled departure and the cancellation is the airline’s fault, travelers will also give customers a $50 credit on the airline. It will re-accommodate passengers on the next available JetBlue flight, but it does not re-accommodate people on other airlines.

Although airlines are required to have a contract of carriage available, sometimes it may not be there. I advise travelers to download a PDF copy of the contract onto your smartphone or tablet — or even go old-school and print it out — just in case you find yourself questioning your rights. It will be easier to make your case to the airline if you have the information available.

Flight Canceled Due to Weather? Here Are Your Options

Tips For Taking Off
Businessman in airport - Aping Vision / STS/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Aping Vision / STS/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Updated November 15, 2016.

If your flight is cancelled due to weather events — including tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, fog and floods, to name a few things — airlines have policies in place to accommodate travelers. The first thing you must know is that you will not receive any compensation or sleeping accommodations from the airline for the cancellation since it was what is considered an Act of God outside the carrier’s control. And when weather events happen, there are usually hundreds of flights that are affected, so you’re not alone.

So what are your rights? I advise you to check directly with your airline, but here are some overall policies:

  • Flexible changes to tickets: airlines will generally waive ticket change fees and allow flights to be rebooked within up to seven days from the originally scheduled date.
  • Change your ticket completely: airlines may allow you to apply the full value of your unused ticket toward the purchase of a flight to a different destination.
  • Change ticket without penalties: carriers may allow a one-time change without fees if you remain on the same itinerary.
  • Refunds and partial refunds: if the weather is really bad and flight schedules are a mess, airlines may offer to refund your unused ticket and sometimes even the unused portion of your ticket if you have begun travel.

How can you best handle weather-related cancellations?

  • Call ahead or check online before you go to the airport. If the roads are treacherous, the runways will be too.
  • Sign up for an airline’s flight status messaging service for the very latest news on your travel. Also sign up for something like Flight Aware, a website and app that offers real-time flight tracking.
  • Get the Next Flight app on your smartphone. This app allows you to search for flights on other airlines in case your flight is canceled. When you get an agent on the phone or at the airport, you can give them the available flight numbers to possibly be put on another flight.
  • Be sure and bookmark this list of airline phone numbers compiled by travel expert Johnny Jet to beat the crowd of those trying to rebook flights.
  • If you are at the airport when your flight cancels, you can line up to see a gate agent or at the ticket counter, but skip the line, whip out your smartphone and call the airline directly or go to its website to rebook your flight.
  • If you are at the airport when your flight cancels, check both departure and arrival screens. Chances are if flights later than yours are not operating, a later rebooked flight on the same day may end up cancelling. Checking the arrival board will give you an idea of whether enough airplanes are coming in to actually turn around and operate as another flight.
  • If you are at the airport when your flight cancels, and you are a connecting passenger, ask the gate agent if you should head to the ticket counter or if there is a desk for connecting passengers. Although not obligated, many airlines will take care of passengers who are in transit, particularly if the weather delays/cancellations were not foreseen or advised of when you began your journey.
  • Checking the weather at your destination may give you an indication of whether a flight can even fly.

What are your options if you’re stuck on a plane during a weather delay?

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s consumer rules prohibit U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from allowing an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.

Airlines are required to provide travelers with adequate food and potable drinking water within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.

And what if you’re stuck on the ground?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please follow my travel-related magazines on Flipboard: Best of About Travel, a joint curation venture with my fellow About Travel Experts; and Travel-Go! There’s Nothing Stopping You, all about the passenger experience on the ground and in the air. You can also findmy travel-related boards on Pinterest, follow me on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet, on Instagram at aviationqueen and on Snapchat at AvQueenBenet.