Airlines Promise To Give You A Hotel Room When You’re Stuck Overnight. Don’t Take The Room. [Roundup]

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Trip delay coverage from a credit card specifically excludes coverage for delays that are an airline’s fault, so your recommendation is off here. That aside, it may be worth eating the cost of a better hotel room when faced with an overnight delay.

  2. I’ve never actually looked into the mechanism of airline hotel room booking – do the airlines pre-block or hold right of first refusal on a set number of rooms each night? I would imagine that in a situation where there is a major IRROPS event, rooms available to the public would sell out entirely, but airlines could retain reservations if they are blocked or held in advance. In that case, it would of course be advantageous to take what the airline offers.

  3. OK, that’s evidence of either a roof leak or excess condensation seeping in via ducting. In a hallway, not the room. God, people are such feckin’ whiners. Tweet a bedbug or brown stain bathroom photo
    (from YOUR room) and I’ll be impressed.

    Otherwise, toughen up, buttercup.

  4. Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of cancellations in the past year, most often thanks to American’s incompetent operations in Miami. My complaint with AA isn’t so much the quality of the hotel room – I’ve mostly been put in the MIA Sonesta which has adequate rooms – but the need to wait in line to get the voucher, and then waiting in a long line for the transfer, and then wait in the long line at the hotel waiting for a wide-body worth of travelers to be checked in in the middle of the night by a skeleton crew. An hours long process.

    This has to be weighed against the hassle of making a credit card trip insurance claim, which is also no great pleasure. If the scene is a total sh!t-show, or I’m in a location without many (or any) adequate hotel rooms near the airport – I’ve had overnight delays in the Caribbean (JetBlue) and Mexico (Aeromexico) like this – I’ll move away from the scrum, book my own room, taxi, etc., and submit the bill to the credit card insurance and be prepared to fight for my reimbursement (which has generally been successful).

    Keep in mind too that although the USA gives you no protections, the country you are traveling to – anywhere in the EU, Brazil, Mexico, etc. – might allow you to seek damages from the airline.

  5. I feel seen lol. WN was a mess yesterday. I was canceled in BWI from FLL. I was horrified by a gate agent’s treatment of me a few other pax. His name is Ryan K. I filed a complaint by phone and email. I never ever file complaints. I’m over WN.

  6. @AngryFlier – If that leak is but the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) of a larger mold issue behind the visible water stains, then you (and the hotels) are ignorantly dismissing the health implications that result from mold exposure (it is a neurotoxin). I personally had debilitating physical issues from mold exposure – mold that couldn’t be seen or smelled (it was under floorboards).

  7. Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia – don’t go there, even on a layover. “Countries” with no regard for humanity.

  8. @CW: The airlines contract with one of a couple of companies that specialize in hotel bookings in IROPs (and sometimes flight crews). These companies hold inventory in certain cities or will find them, or in worst case they will set up a hotel to receive passengers like call them and put a direct bill/credit card on file or set an agreement to accept vouchers. In many cases, the voucher the airline gives you, that you in turn use to “pay” for the room, gets sent back to that third party who pays on behalf of the airline, sometimes with a credit card the airline has given them (that gets a rebate on card usage, playing the points game). So the entire process it outsourced and the airline agent books your room by going into the web portal the third party provides. All they’ll do is call them and say “I need 15 rooms in Wichita” and they get put in the portal to grab.

  9. I don’t understand why they think the airline is responsible for maintenance at the hotel or why they didn’t even name the hotel. Makes me think it’s not the worst chain (surely they would have said if it was a Travelodge or something) and the person posting the photo just wants to create controversy over a maintenance issue.

  10. In April my flight to Prague on Air Portugal was cancelled because of a mechanical problem. Several of us were put up in a Marriott property in Herndon, which was quite nice.
    The only problem I encountered was not the fault of the airline or the motel: I missed the breakfast and had to take a hike to find a restaurant for lunch.
    Only a few of us were put up at this motel; I hope the other passengers were as fortunate as we were.

  11. I traveled by air constantly for my job and got stranded too many times to count, from Rhode Island to Texas to California to Florida . The places they put you up, especially United in Chicago (which by the way is the most likely airline and place to “stick” you, with all their cancelled flights) are dirty, decrepit, and dangerous to walk to. I left that profession with contempt for and hatred of air travel. The last few years working I talked my boss into letting me drive my own car and get reimbursed for actual expenses. In anything but a complete coast to coast trip I came out ahead on both time and cost. I’ll ride the bus before I’ll get on a plane again.

  12. Spirit is actually trialing a version of this where the customer receives the option of whichever hotels are available (at that moment) in an email and can self-select. That doesn’t make any guarantees… may be choice of not great choices, but that also may be all there is to have.

    I’ve been in a situation with tons of cancelations at an airport because one particular competitor was having a meltdown, and we were down to offering Motel 6 as the only one that had rooms, would arrange ground transport, and take vouchers/company card. Or had to rely on a local resource to find rooms and ground transport.

    These days post-pandemic, hotel shuttles are harder and harder to come by. I’m looking for a room at ONT and 75% of the hotels don’t offer shuttle service, even though they are full flag airport-named hotels (like Holiday Inn). Or the shuttle runs silly hours like 9am to 5pm that don’t do a lot of good. Some airlines have the ability to do something like Uber or Lyft Concierge to send ride links to passengers but those are somewhat limited.

    You also don’t want to make it open ended. I worked for an airline once where in a cancelation they couldn’t find rooms (not my city) and told passengers if they could find a hotel that took the voucher, go for it. Well, the Four Seasons Philadelphia accepted a bunch of them with pleasure!!

  13. Last time I got trapped, it was in Miami. We got in at 1am and I missed the last connection to Tampa by 3 hours. They offered a room at 2am but I made a deal – $100 credit and book me on the first morning flight at 5am. Then I just camped out for two hours, then took my flight. Quick and easy.

  14. I think you are wrong about Frontier… got diverted to Salt Lake City and stuck overnight bc of weather in Denver. They made it really easy. Just book my own room under $150 and submit receipt to a web address they provided and got my money in days.

    Other airlines were doing vouchers and those passengers were having a rough time but Frontier (unbelievable) came through but they still suck.

  15. I was shocked to see the airline in the article was American? Has anyone ever asked Gary where American touched him? Seems this page is Irving but a vendetta against a single company.

  16. Double check the restrictions on reimbursement if airline caused (mechanical, lack of crew not as a result of weather delays, etc) CC travel delay coverage is excluded as it is expected airlines will cover the delay. So someone taking you advice and running up a several hundred dollar hotel bill will be denied. If it was a delay outside the airlines control then enjoy that luxury hotel room and steak dinner on the CC.

  17. @xshanex – that’s generally not true, certainly not for the policies I’ve looked up.

    Although individual terms vary, they frequent say something like “You shall do all things reasonable to avoid or diminish any loss covered by these benefits. This provision will not be unreasonably applied to avoid claims.”

    However waiting in line for an hour which reduces time for sleep when already getting less than a full night is not reasonable. Staying in subpar accommodations is not reasonable.

    Nowhere do I write that you should enjoy a ‘luxury hotel room and steak dinner’ and the benefit amount is generally capped, e.g. $500 total for hotel, meals, and ground transportation.

  18. American – so good 20 years ago. I have had the most terrible terrible experiences with American 2010 to 2016. Being shouted at, terrible errors leading to enormous and painful experiences, being commanded from one gate to the next to the next to the next, and a terrible attitude from a pilot and his crew blaming me for the one hour to get a stroller up to the jetway with my 5 year old writhing on the jetway floor after being patient. I threw away 30 upgrade stickers and have never ever flown with them again. I had the misfortune to meet one of the HR directors from their HQ one evening – a pee on the toilet seat, hit on your wife in front of you type of a person. They treat you like cattle, like animals. They are worse than the cheapest cheapest bus service. They should be dissolved and permanently put out of business.

  19. Trip Delay insurance generally only covers in excess of what the common carrier covers, including vouchers (i.e. it is secondary coverage). So your claim could be declined if the insurance company finds out the airline would have paid for it. I would not recommend trying this if you want to get reimbursed.

  20. Last week I had a ‘trip in vain’ to New York (fellow traveler had a passport issue so cancelled the transatlantic leg). No flights that evening back to Florida; so Delta SkyClub sent me to a rather nice hotel ‘not’ right by JFK but oceanfront in Atlantic Shores. I didn’t need a beach view/boardwalk hotel, but I will say it was absolutely premium quality. So we hear about the bad experiences; for me that was the boarding denial for fellow traveler; while Delta’s Customer Service deserves kudos and more for how they handled the situation. I would suggest that since they have the passport info; they could have their computer flag an early expiration (not everyone knew of the EU 3 month rule; maybe you could write about that incidentally; as my traveling party thought it was still 6 months). As to Delta; absolute fine; as to TSA at JFK and even Clear; what a hassle that was. I’ll avoid JFK in the future; although the SkyClub personal service was the best I’ve encountered anywhere.

  21. Good luck with that. We never got any refund on our trip or hotel. AA just decided to give us an AA credit to use their airline we do not want to ever use again. They get to make their own decisions in the end when you request the refund. It always goes in their favor. No one to talk with on the ohone. You have to do everything online.

  22. Goodness just cut the story in half. Searching for those few sentences was a waste of time. I’m still unsure if there was a paragraph I missed.
    As for the complainers and the people who will fight tooth and nail for a free room…..why are you not screaming over me about Our hard earned money is being spent on lavish items for the people in the Ukraine. Yeah they’re living large while gas station girls and their Jewish leader in a war with another Jewish leader Well isn’t that confusing. Who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. Ahhh yeah no one new that Putin is a Russian Jew who wants to stop Ukraine Jew from being a Nazi. Why is the Jewish race of people running to Ukraine and why are they allowed here not vetted. WTF is happening.

  23. When I was a kid there was a 32 hour delay flying us from Naples to Gatwick. The airline, forgot which one, probably Monarch, put us all up in a four star hotel on the Naples riviera – Hotel Parco Dei Principi. Naturally seven year old me went nuts in that hotel, running up and down the stairs and jumping in the rooftop pool with all my clothes on. I also went wild at the breakfast buffet and over ate. Coach transportation was provided to and from the hotel.

    The plane we flew on next day was a chartered L1011 or a DC10, pretty sure it was an L1011 as I had an obsession with that plane from watching Passenger 57 on TV the year before. My first widebody flight. It had mountains stenciled on the transverse galley bulkheads, which also had the famous lifts to the lower deck. There were drinking fountains with cup dispensers. I’m almost positive the plane said Air Iceland on the side, but maybe it was Air Atlanta Icelandic or whatever that charter outfit was called.

    Of course, this was 28 years ago. Good luck getting that sort of treatment today even from a premium full service carrier, let alone the low cost we flew with then (a low cost with hot meals & baggage included mind you)…

  24. In my instance, American Airlines went above and beyond. Our flight took off from HNL and had to turn around mid flight due to a mechanical problem. We were met by several fire trucks and then pulled to the gate. We had no injuries and were never told what was wrong. However, it took them 3 days to get us on another flight. It really wasn’t bad since they bused everyone to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and gave us food vouchers. They also provided transportation to the airport for our return flight and gave us apology points on top of everything else!

  25. United put us in a hell hole with mold .. in Houston . Flying Business Class . Absolutely horrible . Bathroom
    Was dirty, Rusty fixtures … The air conditioner could have auditioned as a drummer with the Stones!!! But the smell would have gotten him booted !! Disgusting United . Disgusting!

  26. Here’s a good one for you!
    Several years back, my wife and I were returning from our vacation when our late night flight was canceled to our final destination. What was USA** was at fault for the cancellation. I don’t know why I took their hotel offer, I had over a million HHonors points. But, I did(duh)! It was the Red Roof Inn. Again, I should have called a taxi, right away. However, we talked ourselves into staying.
    Here we go!
    Got into the room and fell asleep. We were woken by what I knew was close aboard gun fire. I peaked out the second floor window and a cop with a loud speaker yelled for me to hit the floor. My wife and I were in the bathroom through the gun fight and the next three hours. Daylight came and we left by the taxi I should have gotten us the night before.
    My lesson learned: turn the airline hotel offer down unless it is a reputable, well recognized, known safe hotel and location.
    We put that down as an enlightenment experience!

  27. I usually fly united airlines. My latest flight out of Houston, they have me several hotels to choose from and food vouchers..

  28. June 27, 2023, I got caught in the 1,600 flights cancelled. Jet Blue did nothing. I was told to leave the airport. No room was offered. I was stranded at JFK Tuesday night. All hotels were booked. Hundreds of people were stranded at JFK that Tuesday night.

  29. The last time I flew we got canceled bc no crew showed up. We got put in a nice room. The next day the flight got stuck on the runway for 7 hrs before returning to gate due to weather. It was canceled. I did not get another hotel voucher. We all had to sleep in airport. Then they flew us to another city. Again, no hotel voucher. Night 2 in airport. It was miserable. There is no place to relax in airport. Buzzers, alarms, intercom, and people everywhere while you sleep on concrete or upright in metal chair. A jail bed would have been nicer.

  30. I was stuck overnight in Texas because of weather and they never offered a room or even another ticket since I missed my connecting flight. They offered me a stand by ticket for the next day and said that’s all they could do. It was American airlines in the middle of the pandemic and no we were not 6 feet apart. Those planes were packed. I complained and nothing. It cost me another $600 to get another ticket home the next day plus I had to pay for a hotel room for the night out of my pocket. So no they don’t always offer rooms.

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