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Originally published Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 7:00 PM

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Bumped from a flight? Always choose cash over a voucher

Q-and-A tells why cash is better if you’re bumped, and updates on rule about “next flight out” if your flight is canceled.

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Q: I showed up at the airport for my flight, but was told that the plane was “oversold” and I would be put on the next flight out, leaving in three hours. The airline offered me a voucher good for future travel anywhere they fly in the U.S.; however, it has to be used within a year of issue and I have no plans to travel. Can I sell the voucher to someone else?

A: You might be able to use the voucher to arrange transportation for someone else, if the voucher is “transferrable” (some are, some are not). But it’s probably against airline rules to outright sell it to another party. In any case, you were entitled to a cash payment on the spot rather than a voucher if you were involuntarily denied boarding. So in the future, if you’re bumped from a flight, never accept a travel voucher. You’re entitled to a cash payment on the spot of up to $1,200 or 400 percent of the value of the one-way fare depending on the length of the delay.

Q: Whatever happened to “Rule 240?” As I recall, in the past when a flight was canceled or severely delayed, the airline would put you on a competitor’s next flight out if that flight would get you to your destination sooner than your original airline’s next flight out. I was even put in first class on Continental one time when my American Airlines flight was canceled, even though my original ticket was in economy class. But recently I was flying on Delta and the agent refused to put me on the next flight out on AirTran when my flight was canceled.

A: Rule 240 was a part of all airlines’ contracts of carriage back when airlines were regulated by the government, and stipulated that in the event of a cancellation or delay “within the airline’s control” (and not resulting from an act of God, such as weather) the passenger must be put on the next flight out on another airline. Most airlines have done away with this rule in their contracts. However, some airlines still have such a rule, although usually a weaker version of it, and will (at their discretion) reroute you on another airline in the event of a cancellation. For example, Rule 24 in United’s contract states “(United will) reroute Passengers over the lines of one or more carriers in the same class of service when a Change in Schedule results in the cancellation of all UA service between two cities.” Alaska Airlines has a similar rule, as does Frontier Airlines. Most others, however, including those formed after airlines were deregulated, have eliminated Rule 240 or never had one.

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