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  • A Allred

Contract of Carriage: Why you don't want to accept that travel voucher

Never heard of a Contract of Carriage? Every airline has one and it spells out what the carriers and passengers expect from one another. And what passengers expect most is to arrive at their final destination. Air travel is straight forward: buy seat, sit in seat, arrive at destination. But that doesn’t always happen.

Why, you might ask, doesn’t that always happen? Simple. Airlines have a habit of overbooking because it makes financial sense and usually doesn’t inconvenience anyone. Carriers know a certain amount of people will miss their flights or change reservations last minute and they don’t want to fly with empty seats and miss out on revenue so they oversell. Plus. flying at full capacity lets airlines charge less per ticket. Airlines have their formula down so well that only .09% of air travelers will run into this problem. What, you might ask, happens when they over book and how does it affect me? Glad you asked

It begins with a call for volunteers. Before they start to deny boarding, they will ask for volunteers to accept a measly voucher. While it might be tempting to accept that one-hundred dollar voucher, wait. Vouchers increase exponentially in relation to the gate attendant’s desperation to not have to kick someone off. (Because if they do, they have to pay out a lot more than anyone realizes) Plus, vouchers come with fine print you might not want to deal with.

Some people will accept the vouchers, and lucky you, you get to stay on the flight! Crisis and delay diverted. But be sure to shed a tear for your former fellow passenger. They missed out on a sweet deal by playing it safe and taking a voucher and giving up a seat.

If no volunteers come forward, passengers are then denied entry. This is determined based on check-in time (late check-ins are usually first to be booted), how frequently a person travels, if they are travelling alone or in a group. Every airline has its own way of doing things. One thing doesn’t change though: the airline has to pay out.

When an airline cannot complete the contract of carriage they pay back 200 percent of your ticket if you are denied boarding and arrive at your destination less than 2 hours after your original ETA, and 400 percent if you arrive more than 2 hours after your original ETA.

200% to 400% of your ticket is a whole lot more than that travel voucher would have gotten you. Now, aren’t you glad you waited?

Keep in mind these benefits aren’t automatic. You’ll need to reach out to the airline to claim them.

If you want to do some reading of your own, here are Contracts of Carriage for United Airlines, Southwest, and Delta, and oddly enough, jetBlue promises to never oversell seats.

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