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Can I get money for my flight being canceled? Ask the lawyer

Can I get money for my flight being canceled? Ask the lawyer

Q: We were scheduled to fly from LAX to New York, got to the airport and learned the flight was canceled. We were not able to get to New York on time for several events planned and were put on a much later flight. Can we get money back for what we lost?

F.W., Los Angeles

Ron Sokol
Ron Sokol

A: In the United States, airlines are not required to compensate when a flight is canceled or delayed. Compensation comes into play when certain passengers are “bumped” from a flight that is oversold. This is because airlines do not guarantee their schedules and difficulties can arise, from bad weather to air traffic issues to mechanical problems.

Note, though, that each airline has its own policies. If your flight experiences a long delay, you can ask airline staff if they will pay for meals and/or a hotel room. Some airlines offer these amenities; others, unfortunately, do not.

To be clear, the response here relates to domestic flights within the USA. Other airlines in other countries may well have different policies. Also, having travel insurance may be prudent.

Q: My luggage was lost for five days. The good news is that I got it back (this was in Italy), but I had to buy a bunch of stuff before it was found. Can I get money for the hassle and out of pocket?

K.L., Long Beach

A: Under domestic travel regulations, and international treaties with respect to international travel, airlines are required to compensate passengers whose bags are damaged, delayed or lost. There are a number of details of importance, including that airlines often exclude liability for certain items. You can read further about this online at the website of the United States Department of Transportation, transportation.gov.

For domestic flights, the Department of  Transportation regulation permits airlines to limit their liability, with presently a maximum liability amount of $ 3,800 (research indicates an airline can pay more but is not required to do so). For most international flights, under the Montreal Convention treaty, the current maximum is approximately $ 1,780 US, but again an airline can pay more if it chooses to do so.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.


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