Airlines Can Legally Deny You Boarding For These Reasons


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A flight ticket and a photo ID doesn’t always guarantee you boarding on an airplane (even if you’re all ready to go with your coffee in hand).

While US airlines have a long list of guidelines to abide by, another set of standards apply to all air travelers across the country. These standards allow airlines to legally deny boarding to passengers for a multitude of different reasons.

Woman with suitcase is going to board on the next flight

After taking a little deep dive into the US Department of Transportation’s policies following our post on what airlines must pay you if you’re involuntarily denied boarding, we discovered some interesting facts that travelers should take note of.

Turns out, there’s a few things you can do to get yourself kicked off of a flight in the United States. Here’s the guidance for the Department of Transportation for all travelers and airlines in 2022.

Reasons Passengers Can Be Denied Boarding

There’s a few simple reasons why you may be denied boarding by an airline. The typical ones that come to mind are if you don’t make the check-in deadline or don’t have the right identification.

In those cases, it’s important to note that different airlines may have different policies and standards when it comes to re-booking you on a later flight, which is one of the many reasons why you should know the terms and conditions of the airline you’ll be traveling with. Among them, one thing to check out is an airline’s contract of carriage.

Passengers standing at check-in counter with airport staff at check-in desk of airport.

What Is A Contract Of Carriage?

Airlines around the world, including US-based airlines, each have something that’s called a “contract of carriage.” This contract of carriage is essentially a legal agreement that you consent to when buying a ticket on a passenger flight.

Every airlines contract of carriage can differ, and according to the recent guidance by the US Department of Transportation, “an airline can refuse to transport a passenger for the reasons listed in its contract of carriage, so long as the refusal is not discriminatory.”

Calm male tourist is standing in airport and looking at aircraft flight through window. He is holding tickets and suitcase

Non-Discriminatory Reasons For Being Denied Boarding

Some of the non-discriminatory reasons airlines can deny a passenger boarding on a plane include:

  • Being intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs.
  • Attempting to interfere with the duties of a flight crew member.
  • Disrupting flight operations or engaging in unruly behavior.
  • Having an offensive odor that is not caused by a disability or illness.

That’s right, you could be denied boarding if the smell you’re bringing on the plane is offensive to those around you, as long as it is not linked to a personal disability or illness.

Now, onto the subject of unruly passengers. This topic has been reported on widely over the past few years, so much so that the TSA partnered with the FAA at the end of 2021 to help with removing any TSA Pre-Check privileges to passengers deemed “unruly.”

FAA regulations state that, “no person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crew member in the performance of the crew member’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”

Keep Your Travel Documents Updated

And in order to streamline the travel process, it’s important to always travel with an updated passport. With the routine processing times currently at 8-11 weeks, it’s recommended to get your passport updated at least 3-4 months before the expiration date.

As a traveler, it is your responsibility to keep all documents up to date, especially if you plan on traveling internationally.

Read More:

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Travelers Will Have To Pay A New Fee To Enter Europe In 2023

Frontier Adds 4 New Nonstop Flights From The US To Popular Caribbean Destinations

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories

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