Will Someone Please Just Tell Us If Rule 240 @#$@*^% Exists?

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.”

Airlines’ Rule 240: Myth or magic bullet? [CNN]


Edit Your Comment

  1. SpenceMan01 says:

    Wait. Wasn’t think exact excerpt on here very recently? As I look into it, turns out it’s just text from a recently linked to article in this post: [consumerist.com] It doesn’t strike me as THAT slow of a news day…

  2. stephenjames716 says:

    they should just call it rule 420 and everyone will be happy…dudes!

  3. Tallanvor says:

    I’m staying in a hotel comped by Air France tonight since my flight was canceled for “operational reasons” and the next available flight is around 11 tomorrow morning. They’re also covering dinner and breakfast tomorrow. Granted, if they didn’t cover it, my client would have, but it’s one less hassle for me!

  4. urban_ninjya says:

    @stephenjames716: LoL.. That’s what I was thinking too. My dylexic eyes were showing me 420, and I was disappointed when I found no mention of Mary Janes.

  5. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    Here is United’s contract of carriage:
    And a round-up of each airline’s contract would be nice too.

  6. Beerad says:

    @BloggyMcBlogBlog: Doesn’t this really highlight the absurdity of [airline travel/this modern world/our litigious society]? It’s a 47-page contract that everyone agrees to when buying a plane ticket. Nobody reads it, the terms are all dictated by the airlines, and yet air travelers are expected to be able to quote chapter and verse?!

    Coming soon, an 8-page waiver you have to sign before receiving a Big Mac. You heard it here first.

  7. OwenCatherwood says:

    Alaska Air’s Rule 240 (valid for domestic and Candadian flights:

  8. DeltaPurser says:

    Print it out and do WHAT with it?! You really think the airlines have these rules to protect the PASSENGERS?! Think again…

  9. LUV2CattleCall says:

    I think Skybus calls theirs Rule 666. They give you a refund of your ticket price and tell you tough luck…

  10. STrRedWolf says:

    American Airlines: [www.aa.com]

    Southwest: [www.southwest.com]

    I do have to give Southwest some points, because it’s in a nice PDF format with fonts big enough that you can print the 37-page file 2-up and still read it. American just has you print out the web page, which printed a bit small (a problem with Firefox and Linux).

  11. gmark2000 says:

    I’m flying with Air Canada to France. In reading their conditions of carriage, [www.aircanada.com], I don’t see any rights of compensation for delay.

    Last November, when my Hong Kong flight was delayed, I was offered a meal voucher. It’s puzzling not to see anything in writing.

  12. YouCanEatMe says:

    That’s because there’s nothing to see. I got held up in Heathrow for 11 hours because our plane when mechanical and they had to fly another in. We got offered…

    A meal voucher. If all the planets are aligned just right, you’ll have an OK flight but even then you’ll be wishing you went Air France. If you can, try and get an upgrade to Business Class. Flying with the rest of the cattle with any North American carrier sucks these days.