Do You Know Your Financial Rights as a Traveler? -- Know when you can get reimbursed during your travels. |

Have you ever been given a travel voucher for something an airline messed up?

Two years ago, we were given two $75 vouchers after a several-hour flight delay. This was after calling Southwest from the airport (hey, we had several hours to wait so I thought I would give it a try) and telling them about the meeting I was now going to miss because of this delay.

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I thought I was doing pretty well for myself.

Turns out, I might’ve been entitled to a lot more.

Reimbursement #1: Delayed Flight

Did you know that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates compensation after an hour’s delay on a domestic flight, or between a one and four hour delay on international flights?

I've traveled a good bit in my day, and can tell you that I don't remember receiving compensation that one Christmas Eve my husband Paul and I spent six hours playing cards to kill time in an airport pub, or the time my flight from London to Boston was so late getting in that I had to spend the night because I missed my connecting flight to Philadelphia (they did put me up in a hotel room, but only after a substantial midnight stand down between ten of us in the same boat, er, airline lobby and an airline representative).

Reimbursement #2: Bumped from an Oversold Flight

This may come as a surprise to you (it sure as heck does to me), but there are no-shows on almost every flight. They happen so regularly that airlines try to estimate how many no-shows they are going to have so that they can double book those seats and make more money.

The only problem? If everyone ends up showing up anyway, then someone or several someones are going to get bumped either voluntarily or involuntarily to a different flight.

They then tempt volunteers with promises of a travel voucher (by the way, this is a great strategy some use to score free flights if you have the time). If they can’t get a volunteer(s), then they have to involuntarily bump someone. Vouchers will expire after a year, so accept a check payment.

Bumped passengers are entitled to cash compensation equal to the value of four times their ticket price, up to a maximum of $1,300 if delayed for a lengthy period of time (defined as between over two hours from scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and over four hours for international flights), and up to double their ticket price, maximum of $650, for short delays (defined as within one to two hours of scheduled arrival time).

Reimbursement #3: Lost Luggage

I had a bag chewed up by the luggage conveyor belt once, so I was given a brand new London Fog one.

Pretty cool!

Turns out that if your bag is one of the 2 million lost domestically each year for any period of time, then your checked bag fee needs to be reimbursed (sounds like the least they could do). And if your bag is one of the lucky ones to be forever lost, then the US DOT mandates up to $3,300 per customer in reimbursement. Though the settlement factors in depreciation and you may have to show receipts for the lost items.

Travelers Who Want Reimbursed But Don't Want to Fool with It

So after all of this information, you might not be motivated enough to go after what is owed to you. I mean, we're all busy, right?

If you experience a delay or a missed connection, or anything else of the like, then GetAirHelp will go after funds you are owed on your behalf. Their fee for doing the legwork is 25% of any money they score for you. It only takes three minutes to check, and what's even better, they can check on past flights for you and possibly receive compensation for those! If it comes to it, they'll even take the airline to court on your behalf. And if they receive no compensation for you, then you pay nothing.

Before researching for this article, I honestly thought airlines who gave out vouchers for some of these mishaps were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts (or at least to score some points with social-media happy passengers). Turns out, it's the law.