Rule 240: Is it fact or fiction?

Q&A

January 06, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

I fly to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, two or three times a year, and I'm curious: Does Rule 240 apply only to domestic flights?

Yes. No. Maybe.

Because there either is or is not a Rule 240, depending on which side you're on.

This bit of airline lore reminds me of tales of Prohibition-era speak-easies: You utter the magic words, and cool things happen. In this case, if you've had a misconnect on your airline or you've been delayed because of something the carrier has done, you approach an airline desk and say, "Rule 240 me, please." And then you get on the next flight, sometimes even in first class.

People swear this happens in modern times. Other people swear the airline agent either doesn't know what you're talking about or starts laughing.

Before 1978, Rule 240 did exist.

In those days, when the airlines were regulated and carriers gave their lists of rules to the government, No. 240 promised that carriers would help passengers reach their destination if the problem was something the airline created.

Then the government got out of the regulation business.

Some people say 240 survives. "It's still there," says George Hobica, creator of AirfareWatchdog.com, which searches out lowest fares. "You just have to fly with an airline that has a 240."

But don't search for Rule 240 on a carrier's Web site. Instead, look for contracts or conditions of carriage. Some of the rules are generous, promising first-class passage. Others are, well, less so, promising nothing.

Joe Brancatelli, editor of the business-travel Web site JoeSentMe.com, calls 240 an urban legend. The re-accommodation rules, he says, "are full of loopholes."

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