Delta doles out SkyMiles for canceled holiday flights; United and others remain silent

Dec 30, 2021

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This holiday season, Delta Air Lines gave travelers a gift that many likely didn’t expect: bonus SkyMiles.

The Atlanta-based carrier is giving travelers who missed spending the holidays with family and friends due to Delta’s recent flight cancellations a 15,000-mile apology gift.

In an auto-generated email to an affected TPG reader, Delta wrote that “we apologize for the disruption to your holiday weekend travel plans, driven by winter weather and the omicron variant. Providing reliable, best-in-class customer service is very important to us. We will deposit 15,000 SkyMiles into your account.”

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Here at TPG, we value 15,000 SkyMiles at $222. Of course, the redemption value will vary depending on how you redeem the miles, but for some affected travelers, the apology might feel insufficient.

(Screenshot courtesy of a TPG reader)

After all, the move comes amid a sharp spike in industry-wide flight delays and cancellations, which, as noted in the Delta email, have largely been around staffing issues related to the omicron variant, combined with severe winter weather across much of the U.S.

On the one hand, Delta’s move is generous, as it’s the first of the major U.S. airlines to officially offer compensation for canceled holiday travel plans.

The staffing woes and adverse weather have disrupted flights with nearly all U.S. airlines, yet Delta is the only one so far to formally offer compensation.

Of course, some might argue that 15,000 miles don’t feel like enough to compensate for missing the Christmas or New Year’s holidays with family, especially after many skipped last year’s celebrations due to the pandemic.

In addition to Delta, the recent spike in cancellations has primarily affected Alaska, JetBlue and United.

JetBlue publishes a “Customer Bill of Rights,” which gives flyers a $50 or $100 travel credit for flights canceled due to a “controllable irregularity,” which is defined as reasons within JetBlue’s control, like staffing or technology issues.

TPG reached out to the New York-based airline to ask whether the holiday cancellations are considered a “controllable irregularity,” and the airline confirmed that those related to “crewmember availability issues” will receive compensation.

Of these carriers, perhaps the one that owes the most compensation is United, which (loudly) crowed about traveling confidently this holiday season.

At the beginning of November, United sent a brash email to its MileagePlus members — marketing to flyers that you can “fly with confidence this holiday season.”

The airline touted its employee vaccine mandate and workforce stability measures as reasons to travel with United this holiday season.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

At the time, United had escaped unscathed from a major meltdown. Aside from a nationwide meltdown at one of its regional affiliates (Skywest), the Chicago-based carrier didn’t have a days-long operational disruption like we saw with AmericanDeltaSpirit and Southwest.

The airline’s message was seemingly tempting fate — and it came back to bite United when it canceled hundreds of flights this holiday season (and counting).

Hopefully, the airline will make good on its promise to travel confidently this holiday season with compensation for those who tried “booking confidently” this holiday season.

Irrespective of the compensation offered by an airline, every traveler with a canceled (or significantly delayed) flight can request a refund back to the original form of payment.

That’s thanks to the Department of Transportation rule that states that you’re eligible for a refund for a canceled flight — regardless of the airline’s reason for the cancellation.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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