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First Out of the Gate: Rule 240

April 8, 2010

LaGuardia Airport, courtesy of NYDailyNews.com

In the modern world of travel, getting there is no longer half the fun. Having recently had my fill of travel delays (Delayed baggage which finally caught up with me in Mexico a little lighter than it should have been; delayed baggage again on the return from Mexico; a two hour flight from Minneapolis to New York which ended up taking 30 hours, rerouted through Omaha), I was only too happy when a friend clued me into Rule 240.

Rule 240 — which states that in the event of any flight delay or cancellation caused by anything other than weather, the airline will fly you on the next available flight — not their next available flight (which might not leave for another 24 hours), is a brilliant tip to keep in your back pocket for the next time bad travel karma strikes.

The rule, which predates airline deregulation, originally mandated that an airline facing a delayed or canceled flight had to transfer you to another carrier if 1) the second carrier could get you to your destination more quickly than the original line and 2) it had available seats. In pre-deregulation days, all the big U.S. airlines adhered to this practice.

Though airlines are no longer obligated to adhere to it, many still do (See Peter Greenberg’s MSNBC report for proof). Often, just demonstrating that you know about the rule is enough (tip: in colloquial airline usage, the rule is often used as a verb, as in “Could it be possible to 240 me?”).

It may be just the ‘Open Sesame’ you need for another jet bridge.

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