Airline Ticket Booking, Refunds, and Disputes

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Airline tickets are expensive and they are often bought well in advance of a passenger’s date of travel.  Many things can happen between the date that the ticket is purchased and the date of travel that lead to airport ticket disputes.  However, by understanding the law you may be able to avoid airline ticket litigation by knowing how to handle airport ticket disputes when they arise.  Of course, if a reasonable settlement cannot be reached then airline ticket litigation may remain a viable, and important, option.

Liability and Regulations for Airplane Ticket Disputes

The law concerning airline ticket booking and refund disputes varies depending on the reason for the dispute. Some common disputes include:

  • An airline refuses to honor a ticket for a specific passenger. An airline may not refuse to honor a ticket for a specific passenger based solely on the passenger’s race or ethnicity.  This is a violation of federal civil rights law. An airline may refuse to honor a ticket for a specific passenger if the passenger presents a security risk.

  • An airline cancels or significantly reschedules the flight.  This is a matter of contract law.  A contract is created between an airline and a passenger when a ticket is purchased.  That contract explains what happens when a flight is cancelled or rescheduled and varies among airlines.  Typically, however, the airline has the obligation to put you on a similar flight or refund your money.

  • An airline goes out of business before the flight.   In the aftermath of September 11, Section 145 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act required other airlines to honor tickets of bankrupt or insolvent airlines.  That law expired in 2006.  However, many airlines will still honor tickets of other airlines that have gone out of business although they may charge fees for honoring the ticket.

  • An airline drops its ticket price before the flight.  Federal regulations do not require an airline to adjust prices after a sale has been made, though some airlines do so voluntarily.

Resolving a Ticket Dispute

If you have a ticket booking or refund dispute with an airline then you should contact the airline directly and try to resolve it.  As an airline executive, you should work with consumers who have disputes to resolve them prior to engaging in expensive, and public, litigation which can cost you significant amounts of both money and good will.

How an Aviation Attorney Can Help

A lawyer can help an airline ticket holder or an airline resolve disputes prior to litigation or in court if an agreement cannot be reached outside of court.


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