Dennis Morgenstern Discusses Travel Rights on Fox13 News
Fox13 Good Day Tampa Bay with Russell Rhodes
On Thursday, September 7, Tampa attorney Dennis Morgenstern appeared on FOX13’s “Ask a Lawyer Day” morning segment, where the topic on everyone’s mind was how to prepare for Hurricane Irma. Morgenstern discussed what travelers by air and water can expect if their flights or cruises are canceled due to inclement weather and hazardous conditions.
If a cruise ship or a flight gets canceled, the rights for passengers are largely the same, despite the mode of travel. The key difference, though, lies in the contract. When we buy airline or cruise ship tickets, we receive little stubs—if we receive anything at all. But if you visit the airline or cruise company’s website, you will find the contract of carriage, an eight- to fifteen-page contract that only lawyers tend to read. This contract will state that the company that owns the airplane or ship is only required to provide a refund when there is a mechanical failure. For example, if a cruise ship becomes stranded somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, immobile for several days before it is hauled back to shore, the company will offer a refund. However, an inclement weather-related situation, such as the recent hurricane, is called a force majeure, a factor that is outside the company’s control. The company can then alter the itinerary, shorten the cruise, go to unscheduled ports, and not be legally required to provide any refund.
Some companies recognize “good will,” and they want to encourage their repeat customers to keep coming back, so these companies may give refunds. According to the contracts of carriage, though, the rights are in the airline and cruise line companies’ favor. At the end of the day, the companies are going to protect their assets and their employees above all else.