American Airlines Passengers Sleeping In The Airport Made Basic Travel Mistake

Two separate American Airlines passengers shared stories of being forced to sleep in the airport after flight delays over the weekend. They may have made a basic travel error.

If an overnight delay was American’s fault they’ve committed in their customer service plan to provide hotel nights for passengers. If they fail to do that you should get your own room and seek reimbursement and if that is not forthcoming file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.

The truth is, though, you’re probably not going to like the process. You’re getting what you pay for.

  • You may have to wait a very long time to get a room, eating into the time you’re able to sleep
  • Even airlines that will provide you a room automatically through their app may not have any rooms available (at their discount rate) to provide you
  • Or they may overbook the hotel they’re sending you to
  • And it’s probably not a place you’d want to stay to begin with

American Airlines flight attendants have complained of being stuck sleeping at the airport and a pilot was stuck sleeping in a hotel lobby. What chance do you think passengers have?

Yet this isn’t just a U.S. airline issue. Air Canada has sent a man and a woman, who didn’t know each other, to a hotel to share a room. And in China, Hainan Airlines put passengers up in an S&M-themed hotel.

So what do you do instead?

  1. Rely on your credit card coverage. Pay for your ticket with a credit card that offers trip delay coverage, book your own room and save receipts for it, along with ground transportation and meals.

    You’re assured the property you are comfortable staying in. You won’t wait. And you can look farther afield if need be. Sure, airport hotels might well all be booked. But if you aren’t spending an hour in line to get the room is a 20 minute drive away from the airport (also billed to trip delay coverage) so bad?

  2. Request a distressed passenger rate. If you don’t have credit card trip delay coverage, and you can’t find a good rate on your own that you’re willing to pay, one alternative to the long line may be the baggage office. Ask there about distressed passenger rates for hotels. If the line is long at your airline’s baggage office, or it isn’t staffed, be friendly and ask at another airline’s baggage office, it’s worth a shot.

  3. Use points. Airline hotels often are great deals on points, with reward costs based on a hotel’s average daily rate which tends to be brought down by large airline contracts for housing crew. A few thousand points from your stash can get you a far better night’s sleep, more quickly, than relying on the airline.

Not everyone can get a premium credit card with trip delay coverage, or float the hotel until they obtain reimbursement. But there’s no reason in particular to believe that the passengers sleeping in the airport this weekend couldn’t. And everyone who flies should learn their rights, embedded in customer service plans, to a hotel when most airlines are at fault for an overnight delay. Those who can’t arrange their own accommodations, during weather or air traffic control delays, are in a tougher spot.

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. Looks like this was the same day that the southeast was experiencing extreme high winds associated with a strong extra tropical cyclone across the entire eastern US. These IROPs will likely be tagged as weather related and not controllable.

  2. Good morning do you help with trying to resolve issues with a trip insurance who will not reimburse me for my luggage stuck at a Jamaica Airport lost and found for over a month due to the fault of the transportation company?

  3. Flew back from Dubai in late December. Was flying JFK-DFW-BHM on AA

    Our DFW-BHM flight kept getting delayed. Plane had issue. Then pilots coming from another flight. Then plane had issues again.

    At 1am, they cancelled the flight and rescheduled for 6am. Anyone who was “in transit” got a meal and hotel voucher. Those originating from Dallas got nothing. The argument was they could go home.

    At 2 am we finally reached the hotel they arranged to find hotel full. Had to walk to another hotel, dragging luggage. Then had to be back at airport by 4 to check in for morning flight…which got delayed.

    We did eventually get home but think we would have been better off to just sleep in airport rather than deal with catching 2 hours sleep at crappy hotel. And all the airport hotels were full so the hotel they picked for us was a 20 minute drive away.

    Still better than Delta where the delays in one city caused us to miss our connecting flight to Europe in another. And we had intentionally put 5 hours between the flights in case of any delays.

    Hours to reschedule. Ran us through another city. Dropped our FC seats to economy. And no meal or hotel vouchers either.

  4. I was delayed on a flight from LGA to DFW and missed my last connection home to AEX that night. American sent me to a rundown dump where ants were in my bed and bit me while I attempted to take a 4 hour nap. My face and elbows were badly swollen and I had to go to urgent care for a steroid shot and prescriptions as soon as I got off the flight home. American didn’t care about that portion of my trip but did give me a $150 credit toward my next flight for an entirely different reason. I am a mobility challenged passenger and the taxi driver who picked us up at the hotel refused to drop me at the terminal where my flight was departing and made me get out with the other passengers in the van. Once inside, the wheelchair attendant refused to take me to the terminal I needed to go to for my shuttle flight home. She directed me to an outside shuttle bus instead. I nearly missed my flight home. If I were not a disabled person who was refused assistance, American would have done nothing about what happened at the hotel. Thank God I was on Medicaid so I wasn’t stuck for the urgent care visit and prescriptions. The hotel did nothing either so I put them on blast by posting reviews with photographs of my eyelids swollen shut and the bites on every site I could think of.

  5. A better advise is:
    (1) Try rebooking on your app or by calling AA (if you can get through) rather than waiting in line
    (2) If the wait is too long, contact AA via Twitter.
    (3) Book hotel yourself and seek reimbursement. Note that AA will reimburse you but up to the limit.

    This was my experience last June in Denver. My short redeye to CLT was cancelled about the time I showed up to pick up my carryon from Thompson Denver where I stayed. The wait time for AA EXP line was 2 hours so I rebooked myself for an afternoon flight via app. Thompson was still available and at a good rate so booked a room via app at the hotel lobby. Then I contacted AA via Twitter regarding the rebooking and hotel reimbursement. The whole thing took 15 min. I did not have to go anywhere as I was already at hotel lobby and Thompson bed was better than sleeping at the airport. I did not get AA meal voucher but Globalist breakfast @ Thompson was sufficient.

  6. Remember that the Airline can’t operate without having customers, so stop bitching and complaining, take action and is something about it. People stop traveling for a few days and you’ll see how quickly they have to resolve the issues they are having.
    We the people have the POWER but we ALL have to unite and do something about it.

  7. Delta has done some trials of sending out hotel vouchers via text message when it’s their fault a flight delay might force you to spend the night somewhere. Had one of those last year where we ended up making a very tight connection in ATL last year after all so I don’t have direct experience in using them.

  8. Exactly why I don’t fly anymore. Lots of promises of “service”, no time constraint. The heck with that.

  9. @natalie,

    If you’re on medicaid, what are you doing flying? Geez.

    I don’t entirely feel bad for anyone flying who gets “stranded” and can’t afford a hotel. If you are that close to the edge that you can’t afford a 100-200 dollar hotel and attempt reimbursement, then you probably shouldn’t be flying.

  10. No one was “forced” to sleep at the airport. Leaving the airport to pursue a hotel room was an option.

    A long layover at a foreign country without the required visa does result in no option other than sleeping at the airport.

    Most of the delays are out of the control of the airlines. The expectation of accommodations isn’t reality. Avoid the lines with a visit to the lounge. Immediately pursue a hotel room. If the delay is late in the day I confirm availability on ExpertFlyer the next afternoon and rebook via the gate agent and go to a hotel for a welcome night of sleep and welcome breakfast.

    The sob stories remind me of people complaining about car issues but don’t maintain the car.

  11. Was on American COS-DFW-DTW last September. The COS-DFW leg had a mechanical which broke the DFW-DTW connect. No space for 24 hours. Got the GA to rebook DEN-PHL-DTW. In PHL, another mechanical delayed the PHL-DTW leg for 5 hours.

    “Supervisor “ at PHL refused meal voucher. Put in a claim with AA for reimbursement of $135 Lyft fare COS-DEN. Got receipt for claim, but ignored since.

    Short answer is “Buy it yourself”. Had I thought of it at the time, I should have booked DL to DTW on the spot and cancelled AA once I had the confirmation.

    And second teaching from this is that American’s “Customer Service Plan” is as useful as a screen door in a submarine.

  12. Photo the agent and their badge immediately. Accountability works wonders. Now they know you’re gonna hold them up to getting somewhat reasonable service during a delay. My “go to” action is to quietly ask “how would you like your family treated?”, And the empathy begins to flow. Or the shame, either work for me. Bon Voyage!

  13. I boycotted AA for 10 years after some crap they pulled and then gave them another chance. It immediately resulted in my first ever overnight airport stay (no vouchers at all) because of a cancellation. Rookie mistake flying AA. Won’t happen to me again. Also, no problems since I moved to the other guys.

  14. Got stuck in PHX due to mechanical issues causing a departure delay from PHL. AA got us a room at the airport Sheraton (not a Sheraton anymore), which was pretty nice.

    If it’s weather-related, good luck getting anything from the airline. UA didn’t get me anything when I was stuck at EWR due to an inbound flight being canceled, and I’ve heard that’s standard procedure. Unfortunately, they also didn’t let me rebook until the delay turned into a cancelation sometime around 1 AM, at which point the next good alternative flight was at 6 AM.

  15. @Brandon,
    People who have had solid organ transplants are automatically covered by Medicaid. It is needed for their lifelong anti-rejection medications and doesn’t mean they are “living close to the edge” Check your prejudices.

  16. It disgusts me to read this article. I feel that the airline should be more held accountable. The author implies that it’s always the customer that has to make things right with these F and airlines. I was hoping with his expertise he will be able to shed some light on how to really combat the problem but instead he puts it on the consumer to figure out a way very pathetic!

  17. I was flying from Albany,NY to Jacksonville,FL via Washinton,DC. I had a terrible time getting to the airport, was an hour+ late,spent an hour waiting to rebook flight from W to Jax the next day. We left Alb AFTER the connecting flight from W! When l arrived, the wheelchair attendent insisted l ask AA for hotel. After a 20 min wait they gave me a great room in Doubletree 5 min away,$12 meal v oucher, hot chocolate chip cookies, all free.Had lost my cell phone charger @ TSA in Alb, hotel gave me one free and let me stay over 2 extra hours to rest my back!. Not weather related.

  18. Brandon, you are insensitive, and one major problem with the world today, is people like you. No one will truly miss you when you’re gone, trust that.

  19. I haven’t flown AA in years. I quit flying United more than 8 years ago after they lied and didn’t provide any compensation at O’Hare (they said weather related but a check of the weather conditions the next day found no weather related delays.)

  20. Even when the airline provides a hotel, it may not be worth much. Flying United from Toronto to Atlanta, via Philadelphia, my flight got delayed repeatedly at Toronto. We got bused to the remote term and then put on a dinky Wisconsin Air RJ operating for United. Terrible flight in snow and ice and rain and we got to Philly at like 11PM. United had long cancelled the connecting flight to Atlanta so we got vouchers and rebooked for a morning flight out. By the time we got TO the provided hotel, it was almost 2am. The rebooked flight was at 10. I could barely sleep I was so tired. Got maybe two hours and it was time to wake up and go back to the airport. Of course fresh clothes and such were all in checked bags so there I am in a hotel room with basically nothing. Get back to Philly and what do you know, the flight is overbooked and we got bumped again to a 2PM flight, which was delayed. It was a terrific Embraer E190, the only time I have ever flown on that type and I really liked it. Finally got to Atlanta as the sun was going down so six or seven at night. Absolutely exhausted. My luggage had made the morning flight and had been sitting in baggage claim all day without getting stolen. Amazing. Sleeping at the airport would have wasted less time than that trip to the hotel. Aside from enjoying the Embraer, United was trash.

  21. As a very frequent flyer for many years, these expressed experiences are very familiar. Everyone seems to know the drill, some a little better than others. Even if I was provided a hotel room, which I appreciated, I learned to just bite the bullet and bed down in the terminal. Most recently, as similarly stated herein, after the to and from shuttle time, standing in line to check-in, it’s time to go back. Air travel is just a beeotch. @Brandon is the guy holding up the line. “Thank you for your patience,…….. neeext”

  22. This article implies a middle class lifestyle with a credit card with enough of a balance and points to pay for a hotel room. Don’t you think the poor blokes sleeping in the airport would gladly pivot to a hotel if they could afford it. Another unhelpful pile of words.

  23. the customer clearly said they didn’t have funds for a hotel…that is “reason in particular” enough. the burden should be on the airlines to simply do better and provide better reliable customer service in cases of delay. Offer voucher for future flight. A $12 voucher isn’t it!

  24. Really horrible air travel experiences now seem to be the norm. My wife and I have decided to ‘opt-out’ and not fly for a year. Obviously the entire air travel industry needs to get their sh#t together and that is going to take time. Let them fly some empty planes for awhile to get the idea of the importance of basic customer service.

  25. My flight was cancelled and I had to stay overnight in DC. The American airlines help desk was amazing; provided me a hotel room, taxi and meal voucher. Very professional and fast late at night. I was surprised and grateful for the good experience.

  26. Been working on Airplanes for 52 years, 30 years for the Airlines. Things happen with jets they break the weather happens crews get sick to have a perfect trip every time is quixotic. To have spare airplanes at every location ,extra crew, somehow control the weather your ticket price would be so much more you couldn’t afford to fly. The demand for travel just continues to increase you can only fit so many airplanes in the air and at airports then it gets dangerous. Airline profits are razor thin the skilled workers are expensive. Fuel cost are so dynamic, you don’t just sprinkle magic dust on the jet and it’s fixed, let me put you in the cockpit and try flying or be an FA for a day and deal with the general public or one of the CSAs that deal with the public. And sometimes things just go bad. Deal with it or take greyhound.

  27. American Airlines is garbage. I remember flying back from Japan to come back to the states to finish my process of getting out of the military. All AA flights through DFW got cancelled due to “weather” even though every other airline was still flying. Over 700 passengers got cancelled. This was during their pilot shortage but they claimed it was weather so they would not have to provide food vouchers or hotels. Absolute scum of an airline I will never fly with them again.

  28. Just don’t fly they are not liable and you can end up stranded costing you thousands of dollars. Time to boycott all airlines

  29. The only thing that sometimes works is showing lots of patience and being nice to the agent at the customer service desk. Once an agent working for Delta called Delta’s booking line from his own cell phone, stayed on hold for hours past his shift, and rebooked my flight on another airline while he was on his way home. Saved me from getting stuck in Detroit for days with all hotels booked. Everyone vents their frustration at these agents, so a “take your time, I’m not going anywhere anyway” and empathizing with their difficult job goes a long way. They didn’t cancel your flight, so yelling at them gets you nowhere.

  30. @Brandon
    What a mean thing to say. Just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of a life! And how do you know they weren’t traveling for medical reasons?

  31. I had this happen to me in January 2022, when I was flying down to South Padre Island, TX. My parents had already driven down a couple of weeks prior, and I was to fly down a couple of weeks after them, where they would pick me up when I landed in Brownsville, TX. My flight out of ROC went off without a hitch (boarded AND departed on time), my 1st connecting flight out of CLT was somewhat delayed (boarded AFTER we were supposed to DEPART), and my 2nd connecting flight out of DFW to Brownsville (I believe that’s BRO) ended up being cancelled. I ended up staying the night in the DFW airport, and flew into BRO the next morning

  32. Greyhound and Trailways are options if folks paid what it really cost so there would never be delays or problems and everybody got a nice hotel room and big meal vouchers if it did your ticket would cost 10 times as much. I’m a technician how much do you think I should make? Ever time my name goes on the documentation that plane is safe for you and your family you don’t get mistakes at 35,000 feet. Same for the Pilots. Amtrack is also an option. Things happen do you think they intentionally make flights late or cancel planes break crews run out of rest weather happens on both ends of flights. I really don’t care if you fly or not most flights are full anyway.

  33. I’ve slept at airports a lot and never had a problem (except one time I slept so well I missed my connecting flight). The trick is to use headphones with active noise reduction.

  34. We were lucky. We did our traveling – many overseas trips – before the covid debacle. Never had a problem with 35 years of traveling. We decided we’ve traveled enough – not worth the incredible hassles today’s flying brings. I don’t know what the answers are, and it seems no one else does either. I suspect there is more at work here than just the airlines.

  35. OK, everyone is complaining about the accommodations for those who are being delayed while in transit but as hard as it is for them les not forget their love one at their final destination who may have driven quite some distance to pick them up. As a result they may have to make arrangements as well and there is NO perks allowed them. Honestly, I just would not bother traveling anywhere that requires me to board a plane or boat, or ship because you are at their mercy and most could care less once they have your money. We have so many beautiful and interesting places right here at home that are reasonably priced and easy enough to drive there on your own. So unless you really want to someplace abroad so bad you are willing to risk thees problems and sometimes even worse then quit complaining and accept your fate. I’m lucky enough to live within 30 miles from the airport as I wait for my daughter who is stuck hundreds of miles from home after traveling abroad for her vacation. What a way to end this experience.

  36. Yes, here is a comment for Brandon. You are, an insensitive person. With, no respect for others. People do not decide to be disabled and whether you’re on Medicare or medi-cal, or private insurance or anything else. You have the right to be taken care of nevermind the circumstances. Even, if you can’t pay the bill!! Have you seen Hospital costs, anytime recently? We, are in America. So, even though. I, never assume anything. In, this case. I’m, going to probably assume. That, nobody. Including your
    immediate family or anybody that you care for. Has been put in a position, where they are no longer able to care for themselves. This is why we have government programs this is why we have available help this is why all those programs are made available to help people no matter what their situation is so I normally do not speak in this manner but I think you are an insensitive prick and you probably live alone and you probably have nobody that cares for you…….

  37. I’m trying to figure out what the travel mistake the 2 people in fhjs article made per the headline of your story?

  38. American was a fantastic airline when I flew frequently back in the late 1980’s. Since then it absorbed a number of airlines with less-stellar reputations, and my recent experiences on AA have not been great.

    Brandon should know that while many people qualify for Medicaid because they are destitute, there are a number of other medical conditions that will qualify you for Medicaid without restrictions on income or assets.

  39. My daughter and I got stuck in one of the Texas airports on the way to her college freshman orientation. The airline’s hotel deal was a joke. My wife who was back home ended up picking a hotel for us near the airport which ended up being a $200 per night suite which was very nice. I was really happy to get out of the airline’s control and get to a place that I chose. The airline was worthless. Ended up getting to my daughter’s orientation around midnight the next day with her missing the first day of orientation. Not many flights to Birmingham, Alabama out of Texas on United at the time. I slept in the Newark airport years ago when I was a graduate student but I was younger then and had little cash. I guess the bottom line is that flying kind of stinks, really.

  40. Anyone who can’t afford $200 for a hotel room, or can’t qualify for a credit, shouldn’t be flying anyway.

    Air travel is expensive. It’s VERY expensive. These low, low fares that allow people of minimal means to travel by air comes at the cost of the quality of the experience. Air travel today is a miserable, $hitty experience, doubly so when things go wrong. Passengers need to deal with it. They’re getting what they’re willing to pay for.

  41. Up until March 2020 I traveled 50 wks/yr, usually by air. The small local airport closest to my home was serviced by AA, United and Delta. AA was the worst, but was usually chosen by my employer due to prices. Flight cancelations on my flights home were not unusual, and some resulted in overnight stays at a connecting airports, sleeping on the airport floor. AA would typically claim “weather” as the reason for the delay/cancelation, in spite of United and Delta flights successfully flying the exact same route on the same day at approximately the same time. Because the delay was due to “weather”, no meal or accommodation vouchers were issued.

  42. Is American Airlines the only airline that has ever canceled a flight and not provided a room, or is this just another instance of your obvious vendetta against them.

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