Know Your Rights on Flights

Airlines are experiencing turbulence over overbooking policies. Here’s what you need to know when your flight is oversold.

Passengers inside the cabin of a commercial airliner during flight. Shallow depth of field with focus on the seats in the foreground.
(Image credit: enviromantic)

When it comes to air travel, long lines, delays, lost baggage and bumpy flights happen. So do overbooked flights. But no one expects to suffer physical harm when they balk at giving up their seat.

But you’re on thin ice if you don’t follow the airline’s rules. When you book a flight, you agree to the rules in the airline’s contract of carriage, which can’t be negotiated. “If you do something that offends or upsets them, or fail to follow the directions of the flight crew, you can be denied boarding or removed from the plane,” says Arthur Wolk, a Philadelphia-based aviation lawyer. For more details about your rights, check the Department of Transportation’s consumer guide to air travel.

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Kaitlin Pitsker
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Pitsker joined Kiplinger in the summer of 2012. Previously, she interned at the Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and with Chronogram magazine in Kingston, N.Y. She holds a BS in magazine journalism from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.