Fliers may be entitled to financial compensation if bumped from a flight

PHOENIX - Is it reasonable to think that if an airline doesn't get you to your destination at the scheduled time, you should receive some sort of compensation.

Maybe.

But the truth is, airlines aren't legally obligated to give you anything extra if your flight is delayed or canceled--regardless of the reason.

However, if your flight is overbooked then you do have some leverage.

Flights are sometimes oversold because it is expected that some passengers simply won't show up.

But if that doesn't happen, somebody is not making the trip.  Often airlines will offer food, flight or hotel vouchers to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats.

"If they offer a voucher and you're willing to accept it, then that's going to be the deal that you make," explained attorney Stephanie Fierro. "You are however entitled to demand cash."

It's called denied boarding compensation. 

How much you get depends on how long it takes you to eventually get to your destination and how much you paid for you ticket.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation rules, passengers who are involuntarily bumped and arrive between one and two hours of the originally scheduled time, are to be paid 200 percent of the value of the one-way ticket. That amount is capped at $650.  If you get there more than 2 hours late, the entitlement grows to 400 percent of the ticket value, with a $1300 maximum.

There are several exceptions and conditions that affect your payment eligibility. If you don't check in by the airline's specified deadline, or if they substituted a smaller plane, you may be out of luck. Find out all the requirements here .

But knowing you have rights, is half the battle according to the founders of consumer travel website Getairhelp.com .

"You should make them aware that you have air passenger rights," says co-found Henrik Zillmer. "And you would like to see these rights."

Airlines are obligated to inform you of the cash option. But website co-founder Nicolas Michaelsen says only 10 percent of bumped passengers actually challenge it.

"You have $290 million each year that that could be claimed," said Michaelsen.

And Zillmer says getting an airline to pay isn't always easy.

Their website offers a service that determines your compensation eligibility, files a claim, and bargains with the airline for you.

They take a 25% cut of whatever you win, but get nothing if you lose.

Regardless of whether you take on the airline yourself or decide to pay for help, Fierro advises that maintain good records and being courteous are more likely to get you the result you want.

Need my help? Call the Assistance League of Phoenix volunteers Wednesdays and Fridays from 11-1 at 1-855-323-1515 or leave a message anytime.

You can also send me an e-mail , tweet me @letjoeknow or  "like" my Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there.

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