Rule 240 has all the intrigue and mystery of an X-Files case. What is it? Is it a myth, or is it real? To answer the first question, Rule 240 is a regulation-era rule that requires an airline to provide alternate travel when a flight is canceled due to circumstances within its control, such as maintenance problems. This alternate travel may be on another carrier, in whatever class of service is available.
Now, does the rule still exist in these deregulated times? According to our sister site Airfarewatchdog.com, yes it does—sort of. To help folks navigate the murky waters of Rule 240 (or whatever the airlines call it), Airfarewatchdog put together a chart showing which airlines have such a policy, and more importantly, which will seat you in first class if necessary.
Why are the waters so murky? According to Airfarewatchdog founder and president George Hobica, "several airlines, such as Northwest, still have something they call Rule 240, and others, such as Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America, have more vague language saying that they will put you on another airline at their 'sole discretion' or that they 'may substitute alternate carriers.' And some airlines don't call it Rule 240 at all, instead using a numbering system of their own invention."
Leave it to the airlines to make things simple and easy to understand, right? Wrong, which is why this chart is so helpful. So the next time you're flying, take a glance before you head off to the airport. Rule 240 may be mythical, but that doesn't mean you can't try.