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With the recent snow storms along the East Coast, TPG reader Loren tweeted me asking:
“@thepointsguy If your flight is canceled in a snowstorm do the airlines have to put you in a hotel or do you just sleep in the airport?”
The short answer is no.
There really aren’t many consumer protections in the US, compared to Europe, where there are a ton. U.S. airlines really don’t have to get you to your destination whenever there’s a weather event or something else that really isn’t their fault – and you kind of have to give it to them. They can’t afford to house thousands and thousands of people every time Mother Nature throws a curve ball. Airlines generally don’t make that much money to begin with, and one storm could knock any of these smaller, teetering airlines out of business.
However, I do believe that they should work a little bit harder to accommodate people, and to have more airline partnerships to get people moving. For instance, during the last big storm, I was in an airport headed onto a flight to Miami, and all around me JetBlue customers had been stranded for five days; meanwhile there were empty seats on my American Airlines flight.
In the end, though, it’s really your responsibility to have a plan B. I’ve written at length about snowstorms and how to get around long wait times on the airlines, but it’s all really up to you. During this brutal winter with tons of different storms and flight cancellations and delays, try to familiarize yourself with as many tips as possible so you don’t get stranded and have to eat all those extra hotel costs.
But as I often say, it never hurts to ask and see what an airline rep can do for you. Try to find a friendly agent at the airport, explain that you’re stranded and don’t have the funds for an overnight stay – and see what they are willing to do. You might be surprised.
For more information, check out my post on How To Get Compensation When Things Go Wrong on Flights.