U.S. Airlines Will Pay for an Overnight Hotel Stay and Meals for airline-caused delays, responding to the U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT). Earlier in August, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote to the airlines, urging them “at a minimum” to give travelers meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and to pay for a hotel stay overnight during disruptions that are under an airline’s control, such as a mechanical problem or airline crew-related issues. Airlines do not need to provide such assistance when cancellations and delays are due to weather or an issue not controlled by the airline.
Keep in mind that if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and are delayed 6 hours or more, you and each member of your immediate family can be reimbursed up to $500 per ticket purchased with the card, although do note that the card's trip delay insurance is for “reasonable additional expenses…as long as the services were not provided free of charge by the Common Carrier or any other party.” Unfortunately that implies that if the airline does provide a cheap hotel, you'll need to take it, and when the airline doesn't provide accommodation, you'll also need to seek reimbursement from the airline first, before submitting it for reimbursement to Chase. But the Sapphire Reserve trip delay insurance can still help with reimbursing meals, toiletries, and personal use items needed due to the delay. See Trip Delay: Best Credit Cards.
Here's what each of the major carriers says it will provide:
If, due to circumstances within Alaska Airlines' control, your flight is delayed by three hours or more, or canceled such that you must wait three hours or more for a new flight, Alaska Airlines will offer a reasonable meal to each ticketed guest at the airport. Specific options may depend on airport vendor availability.
If you experience an overnight stay at an airport located 100 or more miles away from your home because your flight is canceled or delayed due to circumstances within Alaska Airlines' control, complimentary hotel accommodations will be provided if there are available hotels in the area where the delay or cancellation occurs. Accommodations include single or family rooms and round-trip ground transportation to a hotel in the general vicinity of the airport. Alaska will provide a voucher for a hotel or, if no voucher hotels are available, reimbursement for reasonable hotel and round-trip ground transportation costs.
- A voucher for an approved hotel with available rooms if you are delayed overnight.
- Transportation to a hotel and back to the airport by hotel shuttle / third-party transportation service, or a transportation voucher.
- Meal vouchers if your delay is 3 or more hours after your scheduled departure.
If American Airlines can’t provide you with a voucher for an approved hotel, American Airlines reimburse you for reasonable hotel costs. If a hotel shuttle / third-party transportation service isn’t available, or AA can’t provide you with a transportation voucher, AA will reimburse you for reasonable transportation costs.
When a delay, misconnect, or cancellation is within Delta’s control, Delta will:
- Provide complimentary hotel accommodations at Delta-contracted facilities, based on availability, as well as complimentary ground transportation to and from the hotel, if you are inconvenienced overnight while away from your home or destination. If a Delta-contracted hotel accommodation is unavailable and you book your own accommodations while inconvenienced overnight away from your home or destination, Delta will reimburse reasonable costs for your hotel room and ground transportation to and from the hotel. If accommodations are unavailable, we will compensate you with a credit commensurate in value with the Delta-contracted hotel rate.
- Provide a meal or meal vouchers, if a cancellation or delay results in waiting 3 or more hours beyond the scheduled departure time.
If JetBlue cancels a flight due to a Controllable Irregularity, and it results in the Customer not being reaccomodated until the following day or days, JetBlue will offer reasonable overnight hotel accommodations in a local airport area hotel. If hotel accommodations at a local airport area hotel are not available, JetBlue will, subject to valid receipts, reimburse the Customer reasonable and appropriate expenses associated with the overnight hotel accommodations.
If a JetBlue flight is delayed 3hrs or more from scheduled departure time and the delay is due to a Controllable Irregularity, JetBlue will provide the Customer meal vouchers of $12.00 including taxes and fees. In the event that meal vouchers are not available or otherwise accepted in an airport, or food or beverages are not otherwise available in an airport (e.g., the concessions are closed), JetBlue will make best efforts to provide an appropriate meal/ beverage to the Customer (e.g., order food and provide water for the delayed flight) or otherwise reimburse the Customer, subject to valid receipts, for expenses associated with meals/beverages not to exceed the allowable limit of the JetBlue meal vouchers.
- For cancellations or delays within UA's control, like mechanical issues, that result in your waiting for more than three hours, UA will give you a digital or printed meal voucher. This voucher can be used for the reasonable cost of a meal at airport food vendors. If you don’t automatically get one, just ask the United Airlines representative.
- When a delay or cancellation within United Airlines' control, such as a mechanical issue, keeps you away from your home city and you need to stay overnight, UA will give you digital or printed hotel vouchers that can be used at a partner hotel. If UA is unable to offer you a hotel voucher because a room at a hotel partner is not available, and you find and pay for a different place to stay, you can submit your receipt to UA's Customer Care Team, and UA will reimburse you up to $200. UA will provide a higher reimbursement amount if you demonstrate that a reasonable cost for a hotel is higher than $200 for that location.
- If you stay the night at a hotel nearby because of a delay or cancellation within our control, and the hotel doesn’t provide a shuttle or ride from the airport, UA will give you a voucher for the reasonable cost of a ride to the hotel.
The major airlines (although NOT Alaska or low cost carriers such as Allegiant, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit) will also rebook passengers on their own as well as another airline's flight if the airline cancels the flight due to a controllable reason; Hawaiian Airlines, however, has not committed to rebooking passengers on another airline's flights in the event of a controllable delay:
Most airlines already provided a hotel room for airline-caused delays/cancellations if passengers knew to ask for it, and sometimes meal vouchers. Still, it's good that thanks to the DOT's urging, the customer assistance has been more clearly specified on the airlines' Web sites, visible to all passengers. We'd still like to see compensation similar to EC 261/2004 that would encourage airlines to schedule and operate flights in a more timely way than has been occurring this past summer, but we also aren't optimistic that such consumer-friendly regulation will occur in the U.S., which is why we encourage our clients flying to Europe to fly an EU airline if possible (EC 261/2004 does not apply to U.S. airlines flying to Europe, but it does apply to all EU-based airlines, including on flights to Europe).
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