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International Bumping

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, September 14, 2009

Q. I was slated to fly from Boston to Rome. I arrived at the airport about 2 1/2 hours ahead of my scheduled 6:15 p.m. take-off. After waiting for almost 2 hours in a huge line, airline staff closed off the ticket/boarding pass gates. We were told that they would be with us shortly. After about a half hour, the staff then announced that there was no more room left on this flight! I was bewildered because I had purchased my ticket in April and here it was September. I was among about 10 people who were shut out of this flight because the flight was overbooked. After unsuccessfully trying to put me on a 9:45 p.m. flight on another airline, my options were: 1) Take a flight the next night at 6 p.m. to Milan and then change planes after a layover to Rome; 2) Wait two nights and fly Boston to Rome on a similar flight. I opted for the 1st option. The airline then gave me a 125 Euro ($168 USD) voucher to use on my next flight. My question is, is this common practice and can they be held accountable for this?

 A. The airline may have pulled a fast one here. You were bumped, and according to the US DOT, bumping compensation rules apply to all flights originating in the US, no matter where they're headed. Those rules stipulate compensation ranging from $400 to $800 per passenger, depending on the cost of the ticket and the length of the delay. You would be entitled to the full $800. There's only one condition which may have applied in this case: If the airline substitutes a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result. You should file a complaint with the DOT and go back to the airline and explain that they are not following the rules. Write the DOT at Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75

U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20590 or visit online at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm.

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