There’s been a heated debate going on amongst travel experts as to whether or not the famed “Rule 240” still exists, and if so, in what form does the rule take?
Thank goodness for Christopher Elliott:
Here are four lesser-known facts about Rule 240 that have been overlooked during this entertaining episode of travel maven Smackdown. Knowing them will help you get a more accurate picture of this important airline rule, and what it means to your next trip.
Every airline has a rule ‘240’ — but not every airline calls it Rule 240
For example, if you check on Delta Air Lines’ domestic contract of carriage, you’ll find something called Rule 240 that promises the airline “will exercise reasonable efforts to carry you and your baggage according to Delta’s published schedules and the schedule reflected on your ticket.” But if you’re flying internationally, Delta has no Rule 240. Instead, the 240 provisions are contained in rules 80, 87 and 95 of its international contract.
American Airlines calls its “240” Rule 18, Continental Airlines refers to it as Rule 24 (very clever, dropping the zero) while US Airways refers to its 240 as section X. Before your flight, I recommend printing your airline contract — you can find links to every major airline’s contract on my site — and referring to it if something goes wrong. Don’t invoke Rule 240, even if your airline has one. It will make you sound like a whiny, high-maintenance passenger. Instead, politely refer to your contract of carriage or conditions of carriage if you need to argue for compensation, and be extra polite. Civility often counts for more than being right.
Rule 240 is just one part of a contract that you really ought to read
Airlines must be delighted by all of this bickering over Rule 240, because the last thing they want you to do is pay attention to the rest of their contract. Why? Because there are a lot of other rights you probably never knew about — everything from when you’re entitled to a refund to what the carrier owes you when you’re bumped from a flight. Airlines, it seems, would rather you not know about what’s in their contract. Some smaller carriers don’t even publish their contracts online, meaning you have to ask for a copy of the document at the ticket counter. (Under federal law, the airline must show it to you.) Even the major airlines make it difficult to access their contracts by either forcing you to download the document in .PDF format or publishing it in ALL UPPERCASE, which is the equivalent of yelling online. Bottom line: going off on a Rule 240 tangent only helps the airlines, not you.
More at CNN.
For what its worth, we recommend printing (or requesting) your airline of choice’s contract and tossing it into your favorite carry-on bag. That way if your airline tries to pull any shenanigans you can pull it out and say, “Yeah-huh, read this. See. Look. See.”