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Entries during 2010-06

Mechanical issues delay your flight from Europe? You're covered by EU law.

Q. What can you tell me about the European Union’s delayed flight compensation?   Our Delta flight was delayed recently in Rome overnight due to a mechanical problem with the landing gear on our flight.  They had to actually bring an airplane over from the US.  Our rebooked flight the next day was delayed 2 l/2 hours waiting for them to fly the crew in from Venice.  When we arrived JFK, actually fairly on time, we were again delayed because they had a security breech at our gate…what are the odds.  Needless to say, we also missed our connecting flight in New York and they put us up once again.

My husband lost two days of work and I lost one.

In Rome they gave us the EU’s form to fill out and submit on line for reimbursement of up to $600 Euros.  We submitted 7 days after our return home on May 26 and have heard nothing and I can’t find where to contact them.

It’s a little confusing because when you read your rights, it says the U.S. is not part of the E.U. compensation agreement but it also states that they compensate for flights from Europe.

Can you tell me if we actually qualify or are we just not hearing because they have no intention of reimbursing us?  The problem is I purchased four tickets with one credit card, so my sister and brother in law were also on the same itinerary.  They should reimburse everyone individually but will they? 

A. You are entitled to compensation, because the delay was caused by something within the airline's control (an equipment problem). It doesn't matter if you are U.S. citizens or Europeans, as long as the flight originated in the E.U. However, you may have to be persistent in claiming your money, since airlines are loathe to pay up. A company called EU Claim ( helps consumers in this regard, but they do take a commission if they are successful.

High Fall Fares to Europe

Q. Why are European fares SO high? Even for this fall?

A. Well, several reasons. More demand; less capacity (fewer seats); higher taxes (some imposed by European govts/airports); airline consolidation (Northwest and Delta aren't trying to one-up each other because they're married now)... all adds up to higher fares. Plus, we think, the airlines simply aren't cutting their own throats with irrational/unprofitable fare wars. However, it's entirely possible that once autumn comes, the airlines will relent, especially if the world economy loses steam. So if airfares are so high that you're not biting now, you have nothing to lose by waiting and signing up for airfare alerts.

Can the Fabled 'Rule 240' Help During a Pilot Strike?

Q: I have traveled for over 30 years love to fly and now I need help. If my flight to Orlando is canceled due to a pilot strike what do I do? Would rule 240 help me and my family ? Would trip insurance be a good hedge?

A: Even if your airline had a "Rule 240," a regulation that some airlines have in their contracts of carriage and that stipulate that they will put you on another airline if your flight is canceled,  it probably wouldn't apply to a strike situation. And with planes so full, it's unlikely that there would be many seats available to put you in. Travel insurance also won't help if a strike has already been announced by a labor union.

Flight Canceled Due to Mechanical Issues, What Can I Do?


Q. American just canceled my flight because of mechanical issues, and stuck me on a later and longer trip. Can I get anything for it? Maybe an upgrade or something?

A. If you write them an email, you'll likely get something, whether it's a voucher for future travel or extra miles. Or possibly even both! That being said, it's always a good idea to talk to airline officials at the airport before you leave. Raising an issue while the problem is still happening can sometimes be a bit more effective.

Boarding Denied? Passport Red Tape

Q. I was denied boarding on a flight to Brazil because, although my passport was valid and didn’t expire until several weeks after my return to the U.S., the airline informed me that many countries require that a passport be valid for six or more months from the time the passenger returns home. This doesn’t make sense to me. Do other countries have similar policies?

A. Unfortunately, a number of countries have similar requirements, so it’s essential that, when you fly to a foreign country, you research passport validity period requirements. Airlines are not required to inform you of these rules when you book your seat. Make sure you learn about required visas as well.

Wait a Minute, Aren't Award Tickets Supposed to be Free?

Q. I just received an email stating that Delta Airlines no longer charges a fee for cashing in frequent flyer miles. I wasn’t aware that Delta even charged for this service. Aren’t frequent flyer tickets free? And do other airlines charge?

A. Actually, Delta recently announced that it would no longer charge for “last minute” requests for frequent flyer tickets. Previously, it charged most members of its frequent flyer program (except “elite” members) a hefty fee if they requested seats 20 or fewer days before travel. United also used to charge for this, but no longer does. Unfortunately, many other airlines do charge between $50 and $100 for “close-in ticketing” of award travel, but we expect that now that since Delta and United no longer do other airlines will follow suit. US Airways currently charges up to $50 to issue an award ticket, whether “last minute” or not; and many airlines now charge co-pay fees to upgrade from economy to business or first class, in addition to miles.

Be sure to keep an eye on our Frequent Flyer Fees chart, which has all the info you need.

Not Nuts About Peanuts

Q. I have a peanut allergy, and I'm getting a bit tired of being offered peanuts on planes and having to sit near passengers who are eating them. Even the smell of peanuts bothers me at this point. Anything I can do?

A. As a matter of fact, yes. The Department of Transportation has included ideas for dealing with peanut allergy problems in its new consumer protections proposals. The DOT is considering an outright ban of peanuts onboard planes, as well as less drastic measures suh as requireing airlines to refrain from serving peanuts if an allergic passenger requests it. You can read all the proposals and offer your comment on this and other consumer protections matters at

Power to the People

Q.  I think there is a lot wrong with the way airlines treat customers today.  We get delayed, overbooked flights, baggage fees, and false advertising.  I have some great ideas to help solve these problems, but will anyone really listen to me?  I'm just a small town everyday normal citizen.  I wish I was the one in charge of regulating the airlines.

A.  Actually, your voice can be heard.  The New York Times posted an article stating that the D.O.T. is working along with Cornell university to help ordinary citizens share their opinions on the recent proposals for new airline regulations or any other concerns.  So, have at it.  Go let the big dogs know how you feel about how the airlines are treating the general public and what you think would work to solve the problems.  Who knows?  Maybe your idea will lead to some real action in the Airline Passenger's Bil of Rights.

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