It’s a Natural Disaster…..But I Want Compensation!

Scientists are unsure if recent climate changes are due exclusively to human activity.Scientists claim however that the resulting storm surge along the Atlantic coast recently is almost certainly intensified by decades of sea-level rise linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases. The recent storm on the East Coast raised a question of how natural disasters affected the aviation consumer’s rights when flights are canceled. Many of us are aware that flight cancellations are a headache. An airline’s decision to cancel a flight could result in missing an important meeting, spending less time with friends or in some cases missing the next leg of a trip.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and morphed into a huge and problematic system, putting more than 8.2 million homes and businesses in the dark, my trip to Boston and New York next week seemed to have flown out the window. After much concern about the families affected by the storm and especially about my family members on the East Coast, my concern then turned to whether I would be reimbursed for my ticket by the airlines due to this natural disaster.

Concerned about my rights as a consumer, I looked into the U.S Department of Transportation rules and found that contrary to popular belief, airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled. Compensation is required by law only when you are bumped from a flight that is oversold. However, airlines are required to promptly notify passengers of flight delays of over 30 minutes. Also a recent law passed allows for a full refund of an air ticket if the cancellation is within 24 hours.

It is argued that compensation in such a situation is unfair. According to U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines cannot guarantee their schedules, largely because they cannot control the weather, unexpected mechanical problems or air traffic delays. However,the idea that I had no legal right to compensation was staggering. I had assumed that basic contract principles applied in the instance of the airline failing to deliver what it had promised the consumer. That should the airline not perform, a consumer was entitled to be put in the same position he would have occupied had the airline performed.

With this new insight, my question becomes should I be worried that my rights are so limited or be thankful that airlines under their own policy seek to ensure that a consumer reaches his destination as soon as possible?


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