Making Sense of Rule 260
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Q. Where can I find information about "Rule 260" for Continental Airlines? Where did this rule come from? Is it an FAA rule?
A: I'm not sure where you heard about Rule 260, but the short answer is that Rule 260 was one of many rules that, when they were regulated by the government before 1978, airlines were required to include in their contracts of carriage. It is not an FAA rule, and as far as we know, there is no government regulation that now requires it. Rule 260 stated, in essence, that if your flight is canceled or severely delayed, you may apply for an "involuntary refund" of the fare you paid (in other words, you can get your money back, even on a non-refundable fare). However, if do a web search for "Continental Airlines Contract of Carriage" (it appears as a PDF document) you'll discover that Continental has completely revised the "standard" airline contract of carriage and now doesn't have a Rule 260 in its contract. Instead, it has Rules 21 to 27, which in modified language state some of the same things that you'll find in other airlines' Rule 260 (many airlines still have a Rule 260 in their contracts). Rule 27A in the contract reads: "Ticket Refund—Voluntary; 1) The amount [Continental] will refund upon surrender of the unused portion of the Passenger's Ticket for reasons pursuant to Rule 21 or Rule 24 will be…An amount equal to the fare and charges paid." So what do Rule 21 and 24 say? Rule 21 deals with Continental's refusal to transport a passenger for one or more reasons (such as if you don't have a proper ID); Rule 24 deals with flight delays or cancellations; and Part "C" of Rule 24 states that if a passenger is affected due to a change in schedule and chooses not to fly at another time or on a future flight, "the Passenger will be eligible for a refund upon request."
Confused? What it all boils down to is that on Continental, and indeed on most airlines, if you hold a non-refundable fare and your flight is cancelled or severely delayed and as a consequence you do not wish to travel, then you can get a refund. Interestingly, United Airlines, which recently purchased Continental, does have a Rule 260 in its current contract and it's much easier to understand.