I started discussing about Rule 240 in my last post. To recap, Rule 240 refers to the obligations that an airline has to a passenger when his/her flights are cancelled or delayed, or connecting flights are missed due to the actions of the airline. Rule 240 also applies only if the reason for the flight delay is within the airline’s control, such as mechanical problems, the late arrival of an aircraft, or a delay due to the crew. It does not include flight delays or cancellations resulting from a “force majeure event”, such as inclement weather, riot work stoppage or other factors that are outside of an airline’s control.
In order to be considered for Rule 240, your flight has to be delayed or cancelled due to a “major schedule change”, which I enumerated in my last post. The conditions set here are not universal, however, each airline has it’s own definitions of what constitutes a major schedule change. Northwest, for example, considers an hour or more delay as a major change and will reaccomodate the passenger to another flight, while other airlines will only reaccomodate you if the delay will cause the passenger to arrive at his/her destination the day after the original scheduled arrival.
In case your situation falls under Rule 240, the delayed traveler can ask for a transfer to another flight. Major airlines with interline ticket agreements can transfer the passenger to another carrier, but this is usually solely on the discretion of the airline. Continental and most small airlines, for example, will only transfer a passenger on their own flights, although America West, American, Northwest, United, and US Airways say they’ll transfer you to another airline if they can’t provide a seat on one of their own flights. In case there are no acceptable flights for the traveler, the passenger can choose not to travel, and ask for a refund instead, even if the ticket is non-refundable. Although the airlines usually have no obligation to provide any other compensation, some carriers will provide meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, free phone calls and other amenities.