Air Travelers, Know Your Rights

travel rights
As Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer travel season, millions of Americans are busy on or planning trips.

The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen kicks off a weeklong travel series with a look at your rights as an airline passenger. You may be surprised to learn what you're entitled to, and what you're not.

What happens if your flight is delayed or canceled?

Koeppen explains that each airline has its own policy. There are no federal requirements.

Airlines aren't required to compensate you.

Gone are the days of putting you up in hotel or giving you a food voucher. Some carriers still do it, but they don't have to.

What they will do is try to book you on the next flight out.

Is it a good idea to try to book the first flight of the day?

Yes, Koeppen advises. Early flights are less likely to be delayed. And if there is a problem, you have more options than someone booked on later flights.

What are you rights if you are on a flight that is overbooked?

Plenty of airlines purposely book more passengers on flights than there is room for, to compensate for "no-shows."

The Department of Transportation requires airlines to ask for volunteers to be bumped. You'll be offered some sort of compensation.

What sort of compensation can you expect?

Usually, says Koeppen, a free ticket.

But, she urges, ask questions. For instance: Are the any restrictions on that free ticket?

If you agree to be bumped, ask when the next flight is. Will you have a confirmed seat? You don't want to get bumped again!

You don't have to accept the first offer they give you, should you volunteer to be bumped

Some airlines allow their employees to bargain, Koeppen points out. So don't be afraid to ask for a better deal than the one being offered.

What happens if no one wants to volunteer? Who gets bumped?

It's first come, first served. So, if you're last to check in, you're likely going to be the first to get bumped.

If your luggage is damaged, what should you do?

The airline will usually pay for repairs.

Immediately take the damaged luggage to an airline employee at the airport, and open it in front of the employee, so he or she can see along with you if anything inside is damaged.

What if your luggage is Lost ?

The Transportation Dept. says 98 percent of bags are returned to their owners.

Ask the airline for some cash to buy items you need while you wait for your bag. If they lose your golf clubs, for instance, ask for money so you can rent some.

What if your luggage is lost for good?

You need to file a claim with the airline.

Carriers don't always pay the full amount of every claim.

They can deny a claim if they think it's fraudulent. And it can take an airline up to 3 months to pay you for lost luggage.