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If Your Flight Is Cancelled Due To A Storm Do You Have To Sleep In The Airport?

by on February 23, 2014 · 9 comments

in Points Guy Pointers, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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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.

A board full of canceled flights is every traveler's nightmare.

A board full of canceled flights is every traveler’s nightmare.

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.

You don't want to end up like this!

You don’t want to end up like this!

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.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on FacebookTweeting me or emailing me at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Diotallevi

    A few years back I had a flight cancelled at O’Hare (imagine that!), and the gate attendant got me a $60 rate at the Hilton across the street. They weren’t offering this to everyone though, you had to ask (nicely!).

  • Traveller

    I have always wondering what airlines get to claim as weather. If the plane originates 2 or 3 stops away and only the first stop is impacted do they still get to claim it? Or does it have to be the immediate stop before yours? Its seems like the way routes are designed any weather disruption in any city (whether or not your flight was on that route) is qualifying. That is what I find totally crazy.

  • JustaGoodGuy

    Just as backup it is always a good idea to have some points in a hotel program handy. There have been several times over the years when I have booked a fee hotel room while on the plane that is headed back to terminal after being canceled on the tarmac. Although it is a use of valuable points, there is nothing worse than a totally packed airport with hundreds of people standing in line waiting to be rebooked. I would rather use a few thousand SPG or Marriott points to get the heck out of the airport and go to a local hotel if it is clear that I am not going anywhere on that day. Everyone has their personal tolerances, and standing in line for hours for the possibility of a few certificates is beyond my personal tolerances.

  • Eric

    Airlines are a bit shady even when they do provide hotel accommodation. I was on a AA flight years ago when I was moving to Buenos Aires. The flight was JFK-MIA-EZE. The flight arriving from MIA to JFK to return back to MIA was 1 hour late. By the time the plane completed their turnaround service, there was ice storm that caused us to be delayed again for an hour which in turn caused me to miss my connecting flight. The poor reps at Miami had to be the front line of many screaming angry hostile passengers. However, they offered a hotel in the everglades. Yes…the everglades for 99 dollars a night. I was an 18 year old kid who didn’t know any better, but the airport hotel across the street was 80 bucks. AA sent us 1 hour south (which we had to pay for ground transportation to the hotel) & didn’t compensate us because it was a storm. Overall I wouldn’t count on airlines to hardly ever compensate stranded travelers.

  • thepointsguy

    Yes- even if the weather impacted other cities they will still claim weather.

  • thepointsguy

    Totally agree.. points and miles can be the best insurance policy!

  • thepointsguy

    Never hurts to ask!

  • MaSaBeMama

    just found your awesome blog! recently had flight from LHR – ORD cancelled due to snow. Agents at LHR rebooked us to Houston with overnight stay and on to Chicago next day and assured us that we would have hotel vouchers waiting for us in Houston, per EU passenger’s rights. the airline reps in Houston practically laughed in our faces – but I did manage to persuade them to get us on a flight to ORD that evening and avoided having to find a hotel in houston and avoid a 5 AM flight to ORD…

  • nadball

    Don’t the United Explorer and Chase Ink cards come with travel protection to cover your hotel and food costs while you are stranded for weather? Not sure if I read that here or on a different blog. Always appreciate your advice though. Thanks.

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