When dealing with airplane troubles, whether it may be delayed flights or onboard injury, it is critical to examine airline liability. The Federal Aviation Administration recently reported that approximately 2.5 million airline passengers fly in and out of U.S. airports daily! During peak hours, there are approximately 5,000 aircraft in the sky at any given time in our national airspace system. The FAA oversees more than 15 million flights annually.
Now the bad news. Airlines cancel more than 100,000 flights per year on average due to weather, such as extreme snowstorms, extensive delays in the system, equipment issues, etc. As a recent example, just this month airlines were forced to cancel more than 2,700 flights as a powerful nor’easter brought rain, snow and severe wind to much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. In addition, more than 200,000 additional flights are delayed for over 15 minutes annually.
The US Department of Transportation has published a helpful website page entitled, Aviation Consumer Protection Flight Delays & Cancellations. Unfortunately, federal law does not require airlines to compensate passengers when flights are delayed or cancelled. Airlines are required to compensate you, according to USDOT regulation, only if they oversell a flight, bump you, and are unable to get you to your destination within one hour of your original landing time. For other types of delays or cancellations, your rights derive from your contract with the airline company, which means that your rights vary from airline to airline. Here are the links to some popular airline companies’ delay and cancellation policies:
- Southwest Airlines – https://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/corporate-commitments/customer-service-commitment.pdf
- American Airlines – https://www.aa.com/i18n/customer-service/support/customer-service-plan.jsp
- Delta Airlines – https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/travel-tips-and-tools/delayed-cancelled-flights.html
Most airlines will rebook you free of charge on their next flight with available seats. If your airline cancels your flight, and you chose to cancel your trip, you are entitled to a refund, even if you initially purchased a non-refundable ticket. Airlines are not legally responsible for additional costs and damages that you incur resulting from a cancelled flight (i.e., a prepaid hotel room, concert, sporting event, etc.).
Passenger delays and cancellations can be extremely aggravating. However, they pale in comparison to circumstances when individuals are injured or killed in flight. Unfortunately, thousands of people each year suffer personal injuries or even death while flying. These injuries range from plane crashes to falling luggage, neglecting and/or delaying attention for an in-flight medical emergency, severe turbulence, etc. Every case is unique and only an experienced attorney, like a member from our team of legal experts at Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, can determine the correct actions for you and your family to take if you have been injured on an airplane and need to file an airline liability claim.