Q. Recently, my husband and I had a connecting flight in Atlanta on Delta. The first leg of our flight was delayed due to weather. Worried that we'd miss our connection in ATL to Orlando, I tried to discussing the situation with the gate agents who would only direct me to the Delta 1-800 number. I was told that all flights were booked, and if we missed the connection we'd just have to wait 24 hours for a new flight. So, our plane landed in ATL, we sprint to our gate to find our flight still boarding but are told that our seats were given away to standbys. We had to take a flight the following morning! My question is: When are airlines allowed to just give away seats you paid for? I have been on other airlines where they won't necessarily "hold" planes for connections, which I do understand, but they at least wait until the connection has landed before giving away seats.
A. The short (and sad) answer here is that there aren't really any laws governing this particular process. This is the same industry that allows the overbooking of flights and involuntary bumping of passengers who arrive on time. Most airlines have a "be at the gate by this time or risk losing your seat" clause in their policies, which Delta would most likely point to in this situation, regardless of the fact that you were coming in on a Delta connection. Yes, it isn't fair and we do sympathize.
Still, you did the right thing by phoning the 1-800 number rather than deal with the mob of angry passengers and disgruntled agents at the gate. We've avoided some real airport pile-ups in our day by phoning in and making other arrangements. Find out more about how to best avoid being bumped from a flight.