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This morning I was a little bit surfing on travel blog sites, and then I read this hint:

Know about Rule 240. If your flight is delayed or you get bumped from a flight, ask the ticketing agent if they can “rule 240” you. This term refers generally to getting you on to the next available flight either with the airline or with another airline. Using the lingo helps.

Unfortunately, there is no further explanation about this. So I'm asking: what is this rule exactly and more important, is it really true that it helps you to get the next flight? Does it only work in the US? Or world-wide?

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2 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Yes, it's only relevant in the US, although in the EU the equivalent (more or less) rule is EU Regulation 261/2004. Technically it no longer exists.

From the FAA's FAQ:

The term "Rule 240" refers to a rule that existed before airline deregulation. There is no longer an actual Rule 240. The term, as it is now used, refers to each airline´s "conditions of carriage" policy. You would need to contact the airlines to obtain this.

And then there's also a relevant Wikipedia page:

Federal Aviation Administration Rule 240 mandated that an airline with a delayed or canceled flight had to transfer passengers to another carrier if the second carrier could get passengers to the destination more quickly than the original airline.

The original rule, referring to a federal requirement before airline deregulation in 1978, is long-obsolete; however, the major US airlines have filed "conditions of carriage" with the U.S. Department of Transportation guaranteeing their similar provisions. These provisions vary from airline to airline, and generally apply only to delays that are absolutely the airline's fault, such as mechanical delays, and not to "force majeure" events such as weather, strikes, or "acts of God".

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I've had something like this happen to me in China. I was booked onto a Air China flight but their plane didn't arrive due to snow. I, and the other passengers, were switched at check-in onto a China Southern flight. –  Rincewind42 Mar 15 '12 at 6:49
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By being able to quote "Rule 240" you're a step ahead of the crowd. This is particularly true in the United States, less so in most other parts of the world.

The U.S. is very consumer friendly. Being "bumped" is an "unfriendly" act, for which the passenger is deemed to deserve compensation. By quoting Rule 240, you demonstrate your awareness of:

  1. this underlying (American) thought pattern, and
  2. some of the mechanics of this compensation.

Basically, you've shown that you know how to "stand up for your rights" in a very litigious society. Most U.S. airline people on hearing this will go out their way to accommodate you — if they can.

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which is ironic, given the rule is now obselete. But yes, you instantly get upgraded from 'irritating anonymous passenger' to 'may cause us legal issues' :) The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and all that... –  Mark Mayo Aug 24 '12 at 18:09
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