Bags are packed nicely. Flight tickets and passport are in order. You arrive early at the airport. You are all set to go for your next trip. And then, the inevitable happened. You learn that your flight is delayed or worse still, cancelled. Or you arrive at your destination but your bags are nowhere to be found on the baggage carousel.

Or your flight is taking off as per schedule but you are denied from boarding the flight because it is overbooked? Remember the United Airlines passenger who was violently bumped off from an overbooked flight? This is when you’re thinking, air travel sucks. No matter how much time you spend planning a perfect trip, things might still go wrong. When faced with air travel snafus, the first question many flyers ask is, “Am I entitled to compensation or refund? What are my rights?”

We have the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), an independent body set up in March 2016 under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 to regulate economic and commercial matters related to civil aviation. MAVCOM introduced the Malaysia Aviation Consumer Code in July 2016 providing guidelines on air passengers’ rights including flight delays and cancellations, loss baggage, denied boarding and other travel-related woes. The Code applies to Malaysians air travellers and foreign airlines landing at Malaysian airports.

Here are air passenger rights that you should know and how you can exercise them when things go wrong with your flight:

Flight is Delayed

Depending on the nature of the delay, travellers are entitled to compensation in the form of meals, telephone calls and internet access for delays of two hours. Should the delay is five hours or more or when a stay becomes necessary, the airline is expected to provide hotel accommodation and transport.

However, the airline is not obliged to pay compensation if it can prove that the delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances” such as war, security risks, unexpected flight safety issues or strikes that affect the operation of an airline.

Similarly, the airline will not pay compensation if the traveler chooses to cancel the flight upon learning that the flight is delayed.

Flight is Cancelled

If your flight is cancelled, the airline is obliged to provide sufficient notice as well as provide the first available alternative flight at no additional cost or a full refund to passengers.

However, if you do not find the alternative flight suitable and wish to book another flight with another airline, the airline for which the flight was cancelled is not liable to pay for the ticket purchased with the other airline.

Denied Boarding due to Overbooked Flight

Due to overbooking or operational issues, you may find yourself denied from boarding on your flight. The airline should immediately offer you compensation in the form of meals, phone calls and internet access, accommodation and transport (where reasonable), and the choice of a full refund or a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity.

Denied Boarding Due To Incomplete Travel Documentation

Travellers must ensure that they have valid and complete travel documents: passport must be valid no less than six months and that the visa is not expired. They will not be eligible for compensation in the event that they are denied boarding for failing to produce complete travel documentation.

Lost/Damaged And Delayed Baggage

If your baggage was lost, damaged or delayed, you may be entitled to compensation. Submit a written complaint to the airline on arrival, or within 7 days of arrival if baggage is damaged, or 21 days of arrival if your baggage is delayed.

It is advisable to keep receipts of purchase during travel to show proof the value of items in your baggage and to substantiate the claim amount. However, please note that the airline is not obligated to compensate for general wear and tear of your baggage.

You may wonder whether is there a need to purchase travel insurance since air passengers have the Consumer Code to fall back on. Regardless whether you have purchased travel insurance, the airlines are liable to pay compensation in the event of lost, damaged or delayed baggage. Travellers are still advised to purchase travel insurance as it covers unforeseen circumstances such as medical incidents and emergencies while abroad.

If you believe that you have not been adequately compensated, lodge a formal complaint with the airline in question. Should there be no response from the airline 30 days from the date of submission, contact MAVCOM and submit a copy of your complaint.

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