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Holiday Flight Delays: Know Your Rights

Flight delays are bad anytime of year, but most people can agree they're worse during the holidays. With wintry weather always lurking and airports jammed with travelers, the holidays are peak season for delay-induced chaos and frustration. That's why it's more important than ever for travelers to review their rights when it comes to flight delays.

  • Tarmac delays: This will be the first time the DOT's tarmac delay rules are put to the holiday test. The rules require airlines to provide food and water to passengers once a tarmac delay reaches the two-hour mark. Flights must return to the gate at the three-hour mark, unless the pilot or air traffic control overrides the rule.
  • General delays: There is no government regulation for delay compensation, however, some airlines have their own policies, especially for cases when flight delays impact connections. Check your airline's contract of carriage before you fly.
  • Cancellations: This is a whole other story, and with the tarmac delay rules at least partly increasing cancellations, it's important for travelers to read their airline's policy. If your flight is cancelled by bad weather, you are entitled to a refund, but your airline is not obligated to arrange alternative transport. In cases where the airline is at fault for the cancellation, the airline will try to reroute you, and may refund part or all of your ticket, offer you meal and hotel vouchers, or arrange ground transportation.
  • Bumping: Not a delay, but worth mentioning. Currently, passengers receive between $400 and $800 when they are involuntarily bumped. Customers can receive this as either cash or an airline voucher, though airlines don't always make this clear because they'd prefer customers take the voucher. But if you want cash, you're entitled to it.

Readers, how do you cope with airport delays during the holidays? Book? DVD? Adult beverage?

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