How many of us have bought a flight and actually read the fine print? Even accounting for the lawyers and “well actually”-types, we’re betting that number is in the low single digits, percentage-wise. As a result, flying has become one of those odd contractual relationships where one side knows exactly what it’s in for and the other side is left woefully uninformed. That leads to a lot of unfortunate scenarios — in the best case, you end up without money that was rightfully owed to you; and in the worst case, you’re violently removed from a plane completely unaware that you’re (legally) in the wrong.
First and foremost it’s imperative to remember that when something goes amiss, the airline will offer nothing up front. You need to know your rights and what’s owed to you to play the game. The airline is banking on you not knowing — they save money this way. But if you know what to ask for, you’re golden.
A big caveat here: Once a plane leaves the gate, all airline staff on board are officially federal agents. Federal law applies to all planes once you’re on them and the staff members are technically the enforcers of that law. Flight attendants have the power to have you arrested and the charges, if any, will be federal. Also, that means that if you’re disobeying onboard staff and it causes a delay that the airline has to pay passengers for, the airline 100 percent can charge you for the cost the airline incurs because of a delay you cause.
Moral of the story: Don’t be a dick. It’s too expensive.
Below you’ll find a tactical and practical list of what you’re owed and how to get it if the worst happens. Please keep in mind that when exercising your rights as a passenger, staying calm, collected, and informed is the only demeanor that will benefit you. Losing your shit will get you to the back of the line. Airline employees are just people and if there’s a delay, those employees are dealing with an entire plane of people … not just you. It’s good to remember that you’re all in this together and everyone has a common goal.