Stuck Overnight At The Airport: Don’t Wait For The Airline – Book Your Own Room

When your travel plans include a connection, but you miss your connection and you’re forced to spend the night in a city you hadn’t planned, you may expect the airline to provide you with a hotel room for the night. However,

  • They may not do so, especially if the cause of the misconnection was bad weather

  • Even if the airline should provide one under the circumstances, employees may not be around to handle it.

  • The airline may not have access to nearby hotel inventory. Just because you can find a room doesn’t mean the airline’s outsourced provider is offering inventory at one of their contract hotels, at a price point the airline will pay.

  • And often it’s not just one flight getting cancelled. It may be a whole bunch of flights at the same time, whether it’s a weather event of lack of crew.

Frankly even if the airline will provide you with a room,

  1. You may be standing in line for an interminable period to get the right, and that’s trading off with your sleep.

  2. The hotel room the airline provides you probably may not be one you’d actually want to sleep in anyway.

Just like during flight delays it’s a good idea not to just rely on the airline to take care of you, but to be proactive coming up with alternative available arrangements (or even rebooking yourself onto a new flight and getting refunded for your original one, and even making backup trip reservations in advance where the second one is booked with fully refundable miles), it is worth considering being on your own for lodging too if you find you need it mid-trip.

A couple of recent tweets posted close together by different passengers reminded me of this.

There’s a certain satisfaction in just booking the hotel on your phone as you taxi to the gate, and going directly to your room – and sending the bill to your credit card’s trip delay coverage provider, if you’ve used a card that offers this.

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?

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. Bear in mind American Airlines, like many airlines, has an explicit rule against reimbursing you this cost.

Last year American Airlines flight attendants 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?

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. Missed my connection at LHR last June (CDG-LHR-JFK) due to late arrival/delay in deplaning.
    No news from British Airways on UK261 etc…
    I booked my own room at Sofitel LHR.

    I paid the flight with Amex Plat.

    Can I get reimbursed by Amex?

  2. @Gary – Any chance you could write about the nuts and bolts of how to make a flight delay claim for food and hotel with, say the CSP? How do you obtain a record that shows the reason for your delay? How do you file? Things like that. I think that knowing some of the practicalities might make the prospect less intimidating.

  3. At what point did travellers start to think that ‘someone else’ was responsible for them when there’s a flight disruption? Or anything unplanned during a trip, for that matter? I just read some whiner complaining because his flight home from a cruise wasn’t until 8pm. He didn’t like the ‘tour’ the cruise line offered that would eventually drop them at MIA.

    Good God, man, if you can spend thousands on a cruise, you can set aside a couple hundred bucks to enjoy yourself the final day. Every bit of information you can think up is out there on the internet. Do some research and make your own plans. Yes, and PAY for it yourself. Just figure it out, know how to access hotel availability, have some cash tucked away with an extra credit card, be sure all your devices are charged … just take care of yourself.

  4. @R B – you could have. AMEX Platinum has this kind of trip interruption insurance. Not sure what the statute of limitations is on it. Call them. Of course, you would of had to have purchased the ticket on the platinum card.

  5. Was in Montreal on a connection with the other seven members of my family. Outgoing flight was delayed half an hour at a time for 7 hours, then cancelled at 3 am. Sent to check in counters for air Canada to “take care of us”. Found what looked like about a 3 hour line, talked to someone near the end of the line and they had already been in line for three hours. Checked fir hotels online, but at 3 am, there is no way to search for a room for the rest of the night. Went to the Marriott in the terminal (knowing they would be full) to see if they would contact other Marriott’s for us. Not doing anything, but wouldn’t help us. Started calling hotels, after about 20 calls, finally found one with room for 8 of us in DT Montreal. Got to bed at 4 am.
    Definitely glad that we took care of ourselves, but it isn’t always so easy, especially when you are a group of 8.

  6. Learned this over a decade ago. US Airways offered me a choice between a bad Quality Inn and a bad Ramada Inn. I booked the Springhill Suites and expensed the room instead.

  7. @Gary — Isn’t the trip delay insurance provided with premium credit cards considered “secondary” coverage? If/when a traveler encounters an overnight flight delay, isn’t (s)he supposed to pursue food and lodging vouchers from the airline (first) before booking anything on their own?

    It definitely seems easier to make your own hotel arrangements and not have to (possibly) waste hours of time seeking accommodations from the airline, but can’t the credit card provider deny the [trip delay insurance] claim if you didn’t try to get it from the airline?

  8. Yes, it amazed me that a well known blogger slept on the airport floor with his wife because Montreal hotels were sold out for the Grand Prix. I’ve arrived in Munich for oktoberfest without a reservation and still managed to find a place to stay. There is always a cancellation somewhere, but it may take some work to find it.

  9. The other week United canceled our flight at ORD (weather, mechanical, pilot MIA–take your pick) and they offered 3 hotels that they would book via a text message. They were all good hotels. I did have to get a taxi but by the time I rolled up checking was not hard once I showed them United’s confirmation number. United was willing to pay for taxis but as not all take it, I paid for them.

  10. Gary,

    It’d be great if you could write an article on actually using trip delay insurance covered by chase and Amex.

    We recently had a trip delayed due to a late arriving aircraft, which Apparently Amex does not cover.

    It feels like with a lot of the delays lately being operational and staffing issues, not many trips are actually covered by paying for it with a credit card.

    Has anyone else had this experience?

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