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Cancelled Flights and Stranded Passenger Rights

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By Admin on January 28, 2011 11:50 AM

Like it or not, cancelled flights are part of the airport experience. The gate agent gets on the microphone and announces:

"We're sorry but your flight has been cancelled. We value your business and appreciate your understanding and cooperation. We know you have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting an airline and we thank you for choosing us. Please have a nice day."

Such words offer little comfort to the passenger stranded at an airport all day long due to a canceled flight. Winter storms have caused a rash of grounded planes in New York's JFK and cancelled flights in Chicago's O'Hare airport. Fortunately the good folks here at FindLaw have put together three tactics that stranded passengers can use regarding cancellations. 

1) Call the airlines 1-800 number instead of waiting in line

Once a flight is cancelled, there is usually a mad dash of stranded passengers who line up in front of the counter, where overworked agents have little to no information of use for frustrated customers. Instead, walk to a nearby bar or cafe, and use your smartphone to get a real person on the line. Often times, the person on the phone will be more knowledgeable and less stressed than anyone at the gate or ticket counter. 

2) Use social media

Increasingly airlines are not only posting on sites like Twitter, they also have specialists responding to tweets. Delta airlines made headlines by assigning Twitter monitors earlier this month. It might sound crazy, but a well timed tweet such as, "@Delta: Stuck at JFK, going to miss my sister's wedding if I don't get on a flight in the next hour," might actually get you a positive result. It doesn't cost anything, and certainly beats waiting in line. 

3) Read the fine print

Many travelers incorrectly assume that the Department of Transportation has specific compensation requirements for when flights are canceled. However, in fact, each carrier has a “contract of carriage,” that governs such situations.  Either print this out or save it to your mobile device. That way, if and when a dispute over the procedures arises, you will have the contract right in front of you. 

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