Know your rights if air travel goes wrong

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It's spring break season and before you jet off, make sure you know what you're entitled to in case something goes wrong. (WPVI)

It's spring break season, and before you jet off make sure you know what you're entitled to in case something goes wrong.

Airline disruptions seem to happen more often these days. But if you find yourself caught in flight delays, cancellations or overbookings, it's up to you to know what your rights are and to request compensation.

Few things kill a vacation vibe quicker than being stuck in the airport because of a delayed or cancelled flight.

Unfortunately, experts at Consumer Reports say travelers have very few rights, when things go wrong.

"But being informed will help you get the compensation you're due - if you stand up for yourself," says Lauren Lyons Cole of Consumer Reports.

When it comes to cancellations, each airline handles things differently.

Delta, for example, will either put you on its next available flight or rebook you on another carrier. Southwest on the other hand, only rebooks passengers on the next available Southwest flight. Check specifics for the airline you're traveling.

However, if you get bumped from a flight you do have recourse.

"Overbooking isn't illegal, but if you're bumped involuntarily, in most cases the airline has to rebook you in a timely manner, or pay you," Lyons Cole said.

They might even have to do both. On domestic flights, if the airline rebooks you to land 1 to 2 hours later than your original arrival time, the airline has to cover your ticket and pay you double your one-way airfare - up to $675.

If the delay is more than 2 hours, or the airline doesn't make any alternative arrangements for you, you are due four times your one-way airfare - up to $1,350.

And if an airline tries to give you a travel voucher, demand the cash. You're entitled to it.

Consumer Reports also suggests booking flights with credit cards that offer good insurance for air travel snafus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for instance, offers trip coverage up to $10,000 for certain cancellations, like if you're sick, and $500 for delays.


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