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Passenger Rights

The Vast Majority of Americans Don’t Know Their Air Travel Rights

A new survey of over 2,000 people across the U.S. found that a whopping 92 percent of Americans don’t know what their air travel rights are when they take to the sky, and this lack of understanding costs travelers $6 billion in unclaimed compensation every year. The study was conducted by AirHelp, a company that helps air passengers secure compensation for delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights.

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The study also finds that 75 percent of U.S. air travelers feel uninformed by the airlines, and 77 percent of air passengers who have suffered a disrupted flight don’t file a claim in the US.

AirHelp pins the blame on poor communication of air travel rights from the airlines.

“What this shows is that the implementation of air passenger rights regulation EC 261, a 14-year-old law that also covers U.S. citizens traveling to and from Europe, is not widespread enough,” the survey concludes. “The three main reasons passengers did not file for compensation included: they were not aware of their rights (63 percent), they did not think that they were eligible for compensation (47 percent) and they did not know how to file a claim (42 percent).”

Passenger rights advocates have long fought for greater transparency on behalf of travelers. Just this past November, a congressman from Minnesota introduced legislation that would require airlines to provide customers with a one-page outline of their rights.

But the precise details of when passengers can and can’t receive compensation can be confusing. We created a free, wallet-sized guide to airline passenger rights, which you can fold up and take with you every time you fly. It’s helpful and you should download it today, but the fact that we had to create it speaks to the need for greater transparency from the airlines, not to mention the government.

Readers, do you know your rights? Have you ever sought compensation for a delay or cancellation?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

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