The Ultimate "Rule 240" List

Some airlines still call it “Rule 240” and others a “contract of carriage” but no matter what the name, it still means the same thing: power to the traveler. But which airlines still use it and how much does it protect a traveler?

If your flight is canceled or you’re given a wrong connection, the airline might have to put you on another flight for free, even if it’s on another airline. Airfarewatchdog blog has put together a handy table to help you tell which airlines follow these procedures, and to what degree. They also have links to the contracts of carriage for the airlines that have them posted online. Handy to check if you’re covered before booking, and also good to print out and bring with you to the airport just in case you need to invoke your rights and the airline employee has forgotten their own policies.

Rule 240 Revisited [Airfarewatchdog Blog]


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  1. seldon452 says:

    Well, I have some new respect for southwest.

  2. timmus says:

    From the flip side of the coin:

    “Rule 240 is a traveler’s myth”


  3. Ben Popken says:

    @timmus: Misleading headline and strawman argument on Newsweek’s part. It’s only a “myth” if you believe it’s still a federal mandate and a panacea for all your air-travelin’ ails.

  4. kepler11 says:

    this chart is not great — in that it may cause inexperienced people to believe that any of the major airlines will be rebooking you in first class on the next flight out (and that you are “entitled” to it). I would not read this chart expecting any of the major carriers to rebook you that way.

    Let’s assume (given the readership here) that we’re talking about a coach ticket where the flight has been canceled or something out of your control but within the airline’s control. In general, what the airline will do is to put you on its own next flight, in coach.

    Failing that, priority standby (meaning that you will be processed before people with voluntary changes, missed flights, etc) for the next available coach seat on one of their flights.

    If there happens to be a flight leaving sooner on another carrier, you may be able to ask to be rebooked on that one according to the chart shown, but I find it highly unlikely that you will have the coincidence of good fortune to get a first class seat, because these days, for that to happen, the economy section must be full on the flight you desire that leaves sooner than the airline’s own option, there must be a first class seat available (unlikely given high loads and upgrade clearance rates in advance for others), and what are you going to do about your bags?

    The best advice I can give is that as soon as you perceive there’s a delay with any of your flights, whether sitting in the terminal or on the plane waiting to take off or just landed at your connection city, get on your phone to the airline’s reservation line, and begin the process of asking them to rebook and protect you. You will instantly skip ahead in line of everyone on your same flight, who decided to wait in line at the airport desk, or didn’t realize that they can get help immediately over the phone. You will have better chances of getting a seat on that flight, getting to your destination sooner, and avoiding more aggravation. There are only so many seats left for the airline to rebook everyone who was misconnected. Thinking ahead in this way puts you very much at an advantage compared to everyone else.

  5. Roy Hobbs says:

    If you’re on the West Coast and attempting to go East, or East and attempting to go to the West Coast, the best thing you can do is have the airline rebook you onto a Vegas-bound flight, and then from there onto your destination.

    While none of the airlines intended it to work out this way, Vegas is a de facto hub for most airlines, and with the number of flights going in and out, you can almost always make a connection to your eventual destination. And, of course, you rarely ever have weather-related delays in Vegas iteslf.

    Plus, if you get stuck there for some reason for 2 or 3 days while the snow is cleared from O’Hare, rooms are fairly plentiful and there is always something to do.

  6. TacoChuck says:

    Here is my anecdote about Rule 240:

    I was on a NWA flight that got canceled for mechanical reasons. They were unable to get me on another flight that day, but United had a flight that was leaving in about 20 mins to the same city.

    The person at the NWA desk at my gate printed me out a hard ticket and actually wrote with a pen “RULE 240” across it and said run.

    I showed up at the United gate and had to explain my situation and insist a little bit, but they printed me a boarding pass and I flew on that plane.

    It is my understanding the airlines trade flights like that amongst themselves. They carry each other’s passengers in situations like I had and keep track of it so it evens out in the end or they get compensated.

  7. rlee says:

    @kepler11: “The best advice I can give is that as soon as you perceive there’s a delay with any of your flights, whether sitting in the terminal or on the plane waiting to take off or just landed at your connection city, get on your phone to the airline’s reservation line, and begin the process of asking them to rebook and protect you.”

    Calling as soon as your flight is canceled, absolutely. Calling as soon as there’s a delay? I assume you’re exaggerating for effect. In my experience, they’re not going to do anything for you until cancellation or until there’s enough of a delay that it’s clear you’re going to miss your connection.

  8. kepler11 says:

    @rlee: I assume you’re exaggerating for effect.
    I don’t exaggerate. When flights are delayed any significant amount, their updated departure and arrival times are reflected in the flight status. If appropriate (with a tight connection for example), you use this information to talk to reservations and point out that your connection no longer meets the minimum published connection time (if that is the case). Most of the majors will then protect you on the next available flight, which means you keep your original reservation, but if you miss that, then you have a backup on the next flight. This ensures that you are not scrambling like everyone else who just sat there instead of thinking about and taking care of what was going to happen with their downstream flights.

  9. trioxinaddict says:

    @seldon452: I don’t know. I’ve had good and bad luck with Southwest in these kinds of situations. In my experience they are great about letting you cancel and rebook flights. Getting you on another of their aircrafts that day, not so much.

    The best experience I had with Southwest was last winter, when one of my flights was cancelled. They couldn’t put me on another carrier free of charge, but they refunded the price of my ticket to my credit card and helped me book a new flight with a different carrier that was leaving at about the same time. I had to slap an extra $40 on my card, but they helped me every step of the way and they even called a little taxi thing to get me to the gate on time. Good people!

  10. travelina says:

    Sometimes airlines quietly revise their contracts of carriage without informing customers. Chris Elliott tells what to do if that happens to you, and includes links to the contracts of carriage for several airlines:

  11. eyeballpupil says:

    Just flew with US Air to the West Coast from the East Coast this weekend. There were delays in both directions, and they took responsibility in both cases. The flight out was delayed and would have caused us to miss the connection so they left a message for me on my cell just as I was leaving the house for the airport and rebooked me on the first flight out the next morning. Same problem on the way back; they tried to rebook me on United to get to the connection on time but when it turned out that United was delayed as well, they put me on Continental all the way back. While I would have preferred being on time, I appreciate that they took care of me and got me to my destination eventually.