How To Beat The Airlines During Flight Delays

by Hank Coleman

Airport Flight DelaysNothing is worse on a vacation than a cancelled flight or really long flight delays. And it’s made even worse by the fact that the airlines often have no requirement to help you out when the delay is because of weather, which is the biggest cause of nasty flight delays.

All they have to do is get you out on their soonest available flight in the class of service you booked. The rest is up to you.

Here are some ways to help you get home more quickly and avoid extra cost.

Five Ways To Beat Airline Flight Delays

1. Change online.

Some airlines like Delta let you rebook flights online when you have a delay. It’s a lot quicker and easier than dealing with an agent or the customer service phone line. Just login to the website or the company’s smartphone app and pull up your reservation. You’ll see options to change flights. Other airlines will be implementing this in the future, so keep it in mind.

If you can’t get online, get yourself on hold while you’re waiting so you can reach an agent more quickly. Also consider sending a Tweet to the assistance desk of your airline. United, Delta, and American will all help with reservations via Twitter.

2. Do your own flight search?

If you can’t change online, still get online with your phone while you’re waiting and start looking for flights that are available for sale and ask to be put on them. When really bad weather strikes, and the usual options are days away, airlines may be able to book you on other airlines as an option.

But you need to be firm and polite in asking about them. It helps to have examples ready to go for them to look up. Kayak.com does a good job of displaying a complete list of flights available.

Just note Southwest flights aren’t on there, but Southwest doesn’t have an agreement to carry other airline’s passengers, so they won’t be an option anyway.

And if you’re in coach, you’re only going to fly in coach. Don’t make the case that because they only have first class seats left you are entitled to one – that’s rarely possible.


3. Look and ask for alternate airports.

Going to New York? Ask about Philadelphia. Going to LA? Ask about Burbank, Orange County, or even San Diego. Trains and buses can help you bridge the rest of the way home, or you could rent a car. Again, agents often won’t consider this unless you ask specifically.

4. Use the right credit card.

Some travel credit cards offer Trip Delay insurance. If you buy some or all of your plane ticket with your card, you could be reimbursed up to $500 for expenses during an overnight delay.

That reimbursement often includes reasonable things like hotel rooms, cabs, and meals that the airlines don’t pay for. All you have to do is keep your receipts and ask to get reimbursed. Of course you have to buy your ticket with the card before you know about the flight delays, but there is no extra cost for this coverage on most cards, and it doesn’t matter what airline you fly.

It even typically covers tickets you buy with miles and points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the cards that does, as do some other Chase cards like the United Explorer Card. American Express used to offer this feature as optional add-on, but discontinued it recently.

5. Ask for a hotel discount.

When weather flight delays strike, airlines have no obligation to give you a hotel room. But it never hurts to ask the airport agent politely for a hotel voucher. If they say no, ask if they can get you a distressed passenger rate.

There are a couple of companies whose sole business is selling hotel rooms at deep discounts to passengers who have been delayed. Just ask for the ‘Airport Accommodations’ or ‘Distressed Rate’ phone line, and the airport agent can give it to you. It costs the airline nothing to offer this information.

That way instead of paying $150 you could pay closer to $80 for a night at the airport hotel. Just note that phone agents don’t have access to this information. You need to ask at the airport.

And consider making this the first thing you ask for. There’s no penalty for canceling this kind of hotel reservation. So it’s good to get it made upfront before rooms sell out. You may also want to check out other ways that you can save on your next vacation.

How do you handle airport flight delays? Got any good tips you can share with us? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and is currently pursuing his Certified Financial Planner credentials. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 531 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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