Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Travel Rights Overview
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Traveling anywhere nationally or internationally generally involves some level of planning and interaction with other agencies such as airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, and more. With all of these interactions come opportunities for travelers to find themselves taken advantage of, which is why the federal government has instituted a variety of travel rules and regulations to protect traveler rights.
Travel lawyers can help with issues regarding touring agencies, travel agents, airlines, cruise companies, hotels, car rental companies, event organizers, and more. Additionally, travel industry lawyers can help companies who offer services to travelers help make sure they are meeting the guidelines and restrictions set forth by the law.
The United States offers a doctrine referred to as “the right to travel”. This doctrine specifically encompasses three different situations, but by no means addresses the broader issues involved with travel. The right to travel within the United States refers to a citizen’s right to travel freely between states, to receive the same privileges of a citizen of the state traveled to, and to receive the same benefits and privileges upon permanently relocating to another state as the citizens of that state. However, since this right to travel is a doctrine rather than a law, some elements of it have been contested in the past. If you find yourself struggling with an issue regarding travel, whether national or international, contact a travel lawyer to learn more about your rights in your situation.
Some of the biggest issues travelers encounter tend to be in regard to airline tickets and car rentals. What many people might be unaware of is that several protections exist to prevent these agencies from taking advantage of travelers. Some important protections that exist for travelers include:
- Clear written notice: Regardless of whether a ticket was assumed to be refundable or non-refundable, if a traveler needs to cancel or refund a ticket for any reason and restrictions on the refund process were not included with the airline ticket or accompanying paperwork, the airline is required to refund your ticket. Additionally, this protection also applies to any penalties or price changes that may occur. Unless clear notice of the non-refundable status, penalty, or price change was written on the ticket itself or accompanying paperwork, you are legally protected against these issues.
- 24 hour rule: This refers to a traveler’s right to have their ticket reserved at the quoted price for up to 25 hours without actually making a payment, as long as the ticket is for a date at least 7 days or more in the future.
- Involuntary refunds: Every airline might have slightly different rules regarding this, but in general this refers to any time a traveler has already checked in for their flight but is not able to board due either to extreme delays or a refusal of staff to let them board. In this situation, the traveler is entitled to a refund.
- Travelers are not legally required to purchase rental car insurance: It’s a good idea to have some kind of insurance covering you at all times, especially when using a rental car. However, many rental car agencies may pressure people to purchase their own insurance for the vehicle, when in reality many car owners already have rental car protection included with their policy. Check on your policy and consider altering it before travel to ensure that you are fully protected at all times. You don’t want to find yourself boxed in by the often exorbitant rates of rental car insurance offered by the rental agencies themselves. It’s a good idea to bring a copy of your car insurance policy along so there is no doubt as to the existence of your rental car insurance.
- The Air Carrier Access Act: This requires all airlines to ensure that any individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities available to them as anyone else regarding boarding a plane and experiencing a reasonable pleasant flight.
- Involuntary bumping notice and compensation: The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires every airline to supply any passengers who are involuntarily bumped due to overbooking a written statement describing the situation and some kind of financial compensation, generally the cost of the ticket at the absolute minimum.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Travel Rights Have Been Violated
Traveling anywhere can be stressful and expensive. This is why it is important to know what your rights are when traveling, particularly regarding refunds and monetary compensation for travel agreements that don’t pan out.
- Determine the alleged violator’s obligation to you. Whether you are dealing with an airline, car rental company, touring agency, or hotel, look into what that company’s obligation to you is. In most situations, if the company itself makes a change, you are due for a refund or compensation, especially if the change was done without informing you. However, if you made the change resulting in the difficulty, the situation could be more difficult to evaluate. Contact a travel attorney to discuss your situation if you have any questions.
- Contact the airline, agency, or company to request a refund. The first thing you should do is write out a well-worded email detailing the situation and requesting a refund. If this email is ignored or met with hostility, it might be time to discuss your situation with a travel attorney. Some travel experts recommend messaging the airline in question via Twitter, as their social media agents tend to be more responsive.
- File a complaint. If contacting the airline does not result in a resolution of the problem, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation here. You will be required to explain the situation as well as the action you took to attempt to rectify it. Airlines are legally required to acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 30 days of receiving it and respond to the complaint within 60 days. If another agency or hotel is violating their terms of agreement, file a complaint with their management, and seek legal counsel.
- Contact your credit card company. This is especially useful if the unfair charge occurred overseas. Whenever you pay for a service that was denied without a refund or legitimate reason, it’s important to contact your credit card company to dispute the claim and prevent further damage.
- Talk to a travel attorney. It might be necessary to contact a travel attorney if none of the above proved to be effective, or if you need help completing the above steps. If you feel that another travel right has been violated that was not mentioned here, discuss it with a travel attorney to see what they can do to help rectify the situation for you.
To learn more about your rights as a traveler and how to address rights violations while traveling, seek legal counsel. Additionally, if you are intending to open a business related to travel, contact a travel industry lawyer to make sure you are aware of the many laws and regulations to protect both travel companies and their clients from liability.