Originally I had planned on lambasting Jetblue after how they handled weather delays on my flight home from Orlando last week. Apparently I am destined to have bad return trips from Orlando every single time. But…Jetblue ended up dealing with compensation proactively so they’ve spared you the rant. So instead I decided to write about travel delay compensation, specifically weather related compensation.
Note that for the most part, airlines usually don’t owe you anything due to weather related incidents. While I’d love to blame American Airlines for thunderstorms, they actually have no control over that. So according to the contract of carriage, weather does not entitle you to any compensation.
Still – airlines do recognize the bad optics of major delays during weather. For example, last week in Orlando during my delay, it was 70 degrees and sunny. In Boston, my destination, it was overcast but no storms. Yet bad weather in Washington D.C. delayed my flight for five hours. So while airlines don’t technically owe compensation, I think they understand in reality it’s difficult to look a customer in the eye and say “tough luck.” (For the record, I would be 100% okay without receiving compensation for weather related issues).
Let’s take a look at some compensation/allowances I’ve received during weather travel delays.
1) Rerouting onto a different carrier (US Airways)
Five or six years ago my wife and I jumped on an amazing sub $400 fare from Boston to Madrid. It rained in Boston the night we left. For some reason US Airways flights were very backed up, though most other carriers were getting out.
The first person I spoke to at the airport said we had to go home and return the next day, which wouldn’t work since we planned a three night trip. I decided to wait in line again and the next agent put us on a Delta flight and we got to Madrid only four hours later than originally planned. We also ended up with a nice little layover in Amsterdam.
I only realize now how very generous that agent was, but agents do have a lot of power to get you to your destination, even if it is on a different carrier.
2) Free changes onto alternate flights for same carrier (All airlines)
Generally when airlines know bad weather is on its way, they offer free changes or cancellations. A lot of this can be done online, though I’d say the best experience I’ve ever had is with Delta. Delta preemptively gave me the option to change flights right from my app. I could look at the different flights and just click on what I wanted without speaking to a human being. I found that incredibly useful. If people know of other airlines that allow you to do it from the app, please let me know so I can give them a shoutout.
3) Automatic $75 travel bank credit (Jetblue)
One nice thing that Jetblue does (and did last week) is automatically credit a $75 travel credit to your account if your flight has been delayed for a considerable amount of time. I received $75 a day or two after my severely delayed flight (I got home at 4 AM that night). A friend of mine on Twitter also had the same experience and I’ve seen people write about it elsewhere. It’s nice that Jetblue does this proactively. Yes, the purpose is to build good will, but the bottom line is they didn’t owe me any compensation since my delay was due to weather but they did it anyway.
4) Compensation for night of hotel, car rental, and a gift card (Delta)
My single best weather related delay compensation also came from a MCO-BOS flight. After getting stuck in Orlando for an extra day due to a blizzard in Boston, I rented a car and a hotel room for the night. Delta not only offered me Amazon gift cards for the delays (which, again, were out of their control due to weather), they also reimbursed me for my car rental and hotel room. Excellent compensation in a situation where the company didn’t owe me anything.
So how can you maximize your chances of receiving compensation from weather delays? Admittedly, I’m not the best at this, but here’s how I’d recommend thinking about your course of action:
Getting travel delay compensation for weather delays
1) Focus on getting home first (and stay calm)
There’s definitely room for argument here, because sometimes the thick of the delay situation might be the best time to ask for compensation. However, since I’m normally traveling with my kids, it’s not feasible to talk compensation when I have two ticking timebombs in tow.
So what I’d suggest you do is calmly figure out a way to get to your destination. I generally get on hold with the airline while waiting in line for a live representative to wait in two lines at once. Also, it’s important to come up with alternatives yourself, that saves time. “I noticed that a flight leaves tomorrow at 8 AM, is there any space on that one?”
Obviously if you change your flight, change it online. But first and foremost, make sure you’ve dealt with the immediate issue – being stuck at the airport.
2) Fill out an online form clearly explaining the situation and stating your frustrations (without blaming the airline)
Since my aforementioned distaste for human contact, I like to fill out online forms. Each airline website will have a feedback or complaint form. Keep it simple and just explain what happened and how you and your family were inconvenienced. I also find it important to highlight any good customer service that I had as a result and to remain positive.
I don’t find threatening very useful, instead I try to politely ask for some compensation. For example, I might say something like “I recognize everyone was trying their best but it still was an unacceptable situation. I would appreciate compensation for the hotel and car or anything else if possible.”
I don’t rush filling out these forms, I usually wait until the trip is over and done with or when I have found some mental space after dealing with the stress from the delay.
3) Be prepared to expect the outcome, even without compensation
I like to take a long view on things, so if I don’t get compensated for a particular instance it doesn’t mean I’ll change my policy on asking nicely. Remember, I am talking about travel delay compensation for weather related issues. The airlines don’t owe us any!
So every time I ask for compensation, I am fully aware that I might not get any. And that’s okay with me, I will just bear that in mind when making choices in the future. If we were talking about bad customer service or things that clearly were the airlines fault, I might take a different tactic, but this is how I handle weather delays.
In the end, the airline’s job is to get us safely from point A to point B. When bad weather hits, that might not always be possible to do in a timely manner. Still, long delays are inconvenient, so it’s okay to ask for compensation. I’ve found that airlines can be very generous – you just need to remember to ask.
Anyway, this is just my policy. Have airlines compensated you for weather delays? Do you like to ask, and if so how do you do it? Let me know in the comments!
I wonder how much ‘compensation’ has changed over the years. I’ve encounter a couple major situations on international flights in the past and there doesn’t seem to be a ‘universal’ approach.
Once on a trip by myself from HKG to PBI which routed through NWK (I think), upon landing we were told all outbound flights were canceled due to snow/weather. The airline (Continental) put me up in a hotel, gave me a food and drink voucher shuttled me out to it, and got me on a flight the next day (all good).
On a similar trip a few years later with my wife, going from HKG to PBI, this time routing through Tokyo and then Atlanta (carrier was Delta). There was a delay at the Narita layover because of a volcanic eruption (odd weather but..weather none the less). We got in late to Atlanta, missing our connection. Huge lines at the agent counters. And by the time we got there, no hotels, no vouchers, nada (well, Delta did give us complimentary toothbrushes). We ended up doing an all nighter in Atlanta airport. My wife slept across two chairs and I stayed up the whole night watching shows on my laptop. (That was the last time I flew Delta, and haven’t booked on them since).
More recent, was an outbound flight (on United) PBI to HKG a few years back. Plane at connection (NWK) was delayed and then, but the time we boarded, the crew was ‘overtime’, so they pulled us all off. Gave us ‘hotel vouchers’ and dinner meal vouchers.
Then last year coming from HKG via DFW (American Airlines) despite having a 3-hour layover window, we missed flight due to a complete mismanagement of Immigration Control, Customs and then TSA (for concourse re-entry). Missed connecting flight by 5 mins, but the airline took no responsibility and offered no compensation. Ended up crashing at the Hyatt there at the airport. Was on my own dime, but at least I earned some reward points from that stay.
It really seems that if you luck out and get a decent agent they will help you greatly, but if you catch someone on an off day (or a hardliner), you just have to deal. I’d willingly pay a bit more per ticket if I absolutely knew that an airline was going to give me a quality customer service experience anytime things went wrong. But the only airline that ever gave me anything close to that experiences was Continental back in the day.
It’s sort of related to the change from air travel being a premium service to like, just regular transportation. Times have changed indeed.
My flight from SFO-KOA via SEA got delayed in SFO on Alaska and compensation was $75, but since I live in Hawaii the $75 is not useful. I would be better off using one of my companion passes since I always travel with someone and not often. The $75 would have expired before I even used it. I reached out to them via email and because there was no responses after a few days I contacted Alaska’s twitter and the rep offered 2500 miles instead. When some Alaska rep finally responded to the email, the rep offered 3000 miles. So, I emailed back and told them I got 2500 miles but I wouldn’t mind getting 3000 or at least the difference between the two in addition.
Nice negotiation. Something’s definitely better than nothing. Yeah the vouchers can be useless, that’s why I was happy Delta gave me Amazon GCs cuz I can actually use them
While I’ve had good and bad experiences over the years, the hands-down *worst* were with:
Spirit: overbooked my flight by thirty people and had the balls to tell the whole group of us that it was our fault we weren’t on the flight because we’d only gotten to the airport an hour and a half prior to boarding when we apparently *should* have been there *four* hours before our domestic flight. Next flight with space was three days later. No offer of hotel, compensation, comped flight, nothing. They only refunded 1/3 of my round trip ticket. I have refused to fly Spirit since.
I forget the name of the other one, was a budget airline that ran out of ATL that has since been absorbed into a larger airline, but they were just staggeringly incompetent. Once someone had forgotten to completely fuel the plane and we had to do an emergency landing in a county airport in SC that had one security guard, no food, and a full bar, which was a mixed blessing as we were stuck there for eight hours while the airline negotiated fuel purchase and eventually just flew another plane out to get us. Got comped a hotel in ATL, but not a bus, so we had to wait while the Sheraton’s 15 passenger van ran bac and forth to get all 120 of us there. Made it into my room three hours before I had to leave to make my 8am rescheduled flight. Flight was then delayed, delayed again, and took off without any warning the second I wandered 100 feet down the terminal to grab a coffee. Finally made it out on a 5pm flight after two being assigned on two other flights that were subsequently cancelled and a screaming match with the world’s nastiest customer service agent. After those 36 hours of hell for travel from DTW to NYC, I ignored my $25 compensation voucher in favor of NEVER flying with those bastards again.
Dang Spirit! I have yet to try them but you’re making me feel like I never will 😛