Airport Passenger Rights

The Ultimate Guide to Airline Contracts of Carriage

We read the fine print on 13 airlines’ contracts of carriage and compiled the facts into a handy guide.

Do you know how the airlines define a “schedule change” or under what conditions you’re allow to bring along your pet? How about your options if you’re denied boarding or the official rules about buckling your seat belt?

We’ve scoured 10 major airlines’ contracts of carriage, translated the legal jargon into understandable language, and compiled the results into the handy (and thorough) guide to airline contracts of carriage below.

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We focused on the differences that might be critical to your choice of airline for your next flight; therefore, rules that are general to all airlines are not included. Keep in mind that these contracts apply strictly to domestic services, so if you’re flying outside of the U.S., you’re most likely entering into an entirely separate contract with a separate set of rules.

As always, we’ll continue to update this chart regularly, and we welcome suggestions from you for ways to improve it.

Editor’s note: This story was originally posted in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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