Millions of people use air travel each year but many do not realize how things can differ during the time before and after takeoff. In the past year, news stories of passengers being removed from an aircraft or being detained at security checkpoints have increased dramatically. Unfortunately, many flyers are unaware of their rights when it comes to air travel.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a set list of specific rules and regulations that were created to protect passengers before and during travel. The rules cover a broad range of topics, including delayed flights, lost baggage, and discrimination.

The next time you are preparing for an airplane ride, be sure to set some time aside to educate yourself on what rights you have (and are giving up) for a safe travel experience during your time in the sky.


Before purchasing a ticket, the traveler must be made aware of all of the taxes and fees included in the base price, which is part of the Department of Transportation’s full-fare advertising rule. In addition to mandatory fees, travelers also have the right to know about optional fees including baggage, meal and drink options, cancellations and upgraded seats.


If the flight you’re on is overbooked and you volunteer to give up your seat, you may be rewarded with perks such as hotel stays and travel vouchers. But if you were involuntarily bumped from your flight, you may be entitled to compensation and a written document explaining your rights. In some cases, bumped passengers can get reimbursed for up to double the amount that their ticket cost.  

In the United States, overbooking is legal and is used as a way to overcompensate in the event of no-show travelers. In 2017, a passenger on a United flight was forcibly removed after refusing to leave the plane after being bumped. This is not normal precautions and passengers should not be violently handled unless they are proving to be a danger to themselves or the other passengers. If this has happened to you and resulted in a serious injury, consult a personal injury lawyer to learn more about what you can do about your situation.

Delayed and Cancelled Flights

When it comes to planning your trip, keep in mind that airline schedules do not come with a guarantee. There are many factors that can influence the take-off and arrival times of flights, such as mechanical issues, turbulent weather or air traffic delays.

If your flight is delayed, some airlines may be able to rearrange another flight without a cancellation fee or an increase in price. For canceled flights, most airlines will rebook you on the next flight headed to your destination at no additional charge.

Lost Bags

If an airline happens to lose your bags, they are required to pay for the loss or damage of the belongings. While they are responsible for damages that occur while the bag is in the airlines’ possession, they are not liable for any pre-existing damage or damage caused by an over-packed bag.

While flying is one of the easiest and fastest ways to travel, it does come with some potential hazards. Before you skip over the fine print, be sure to read through and understand what your rights are before you board. Being aware of your legal rights can help you avoid potentially frustrating situations.