Flight delay and overnight accomodation

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Nov 22, 2019
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#1
Last year, my coworker had a flight with United Airlines from DC to Chicago to California. The first flight was severely delayed due to weather conditions.
She entered the plane in DC late but had a chance (30 min windows) to catch the next flight from ORD to SNA. The plane was then grounded for more than one hour, so when she realized she will land after her flight left, she asked to get out but was told she can't and shouldn't even ask this. She landed in Chicago and all flight to California (even LAX, LGB, SAN) already left so she had to pay an hotel in ORD.

The airline refused to pay for the hotel at the moment and later by customer service arguing that it is weather delay.

My question is: should an airline fly a passenger knowing that this passenger has absolutely no chance to make it to the second segment (i.e. she wil land way after the last flight left). When she entered the plane, she had a chance to make it (30 min windows), but with the delay on the ground, she had no chance and United knew it but still decided to fly her and refused to let her stay one more day in DC.

I am not looking at solving this old case but be ready for the next one in case it happens again.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#2
Planes cannot take off without a slot at the other end. In difficult weather conditions, and especially involving ORD, the available slots may vary by the minute, taking into account instrument landings, unavailable runways, etc. The departing plane from from DC, once it knows when it can leave, can't be delayed further by asking if any passengers (and not just your colleague) want to get off and potentially have luggage removed. Can you imagine the further disruption? And by delaying the flight further you affect other flyers who are changing planes at ORD for other destinations.

Moreover, the airline can't be juggling all of the schedules of its passengers and figure out which can't make any flight that day and which can make a later flight.

Some similarly situated passengers upon arrival in ORD may accept a change to San Diego, Ontario, Long Beach, LAX or even Burbank. Others may sleep on the floor waiting for a flight. In one instance at ORD, we arrived on a Sunday to be told that we had missed our connection and the next available flight for us (to LAX, a common ORD destination) was the next Wednesday, three days away. And, no, the airline did not offer us accommodations. The delay was weather related. A small tornado which damaged some planes.

In a weather delay, the airline is not responsible for overnight accommodations. (I've been stuck at ORD when the in-airport hotel had it's "No Vacancy" sign out, and taped beneath it was a hand-written sign saying, "Don't even ask.")

Unfortunately, traveling when bad weather hits can result in situations like this. Travel insurance may cover the hotel cost.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#3
While many airline employees will attempt to help travelers satisfy their itineraries, their primary duty is to transport them in accordance with their Contract of Carriage. That is what happened here. Once on board, with doors closed, the flight crew assumes responsibility for them.

Also, there were many passengers on board facing the same dilemma. What you can do to avoid to minimize the risk:
  • Make sure you have sufficient margin to mitigate weather and other delays
  • Book the flights on one reservation (PNR) where possible. Doing so means that the airline will work to arrange alternate flights at no extra cost
Trip insurance might be helpful . . .
 
Dec 26, 2014
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#5
When selecting other than direct flights I look at connection times and try to ensure that I am not on the last flight out, or if I am, how much time do I have for connections, and is that time enough for me to make it to the next gate (I look at airport maps and where I am sitting on the plane). I look to see if that airport often has ATC or weather delays (SFO and SEA have ATC delays often, ORD has weather delays often for example). I also look at options, and offer them to the call agent if I get stuck at an airport. I also head up to the airline lounge and see if those agents can re-route me quicker than what the computer automatically selects for me. There have also been times when I deliberately precooked a hotel near/at the connecting airport and booked a flight out for the next day. (each time I did that I was very glad as it turned out I would not have made the connection and would have been scrambling to find lodging and a new flight)
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#6
When selecting other than direct flights I look at connection times and try to ensure that I am not on the last flight out, or if I am, how much time do I have for connections, and is that time enough for me to make it to the next gate (I look at airport maps and where I am sitting on the plane). I look to see if that airport often has ATC or weather delays (SFO and SEA have ATC delays often, ORD has weather delays often for example). I also look at options, and offer them to the call agent if I get stuck at an airport. I also head up to the airline lounge and see if those agents can re-route me quicker than what the computer automatically selects for me. There have also been times when I deliberately precooked a hotel near/at the connecting airport and booked a flight out for the next day. (each time I did that I was very glad as it turned out I would not have made the connection and would have been scrambling to find lodging and a new flight)
Most of the time, I take the connection suggested by the airline, unless the transfer time appears unreasonably small. I want the entire route on one ticket, so that the airline has an obligation to get me to my destination. As we often fly connecting flights, we're not interested in extending short business or pleasure trips by a day or more to make sure of the connection.

When we have missed flights, it's been an unusual event. At ORD, we missed a flight because a small tornado touched down at ORD, and shut down operations. We were in the air when this happened, touched down at Indy to get gas (not an international airport, so you can't open the door), and by the time we got to ORD we had missed our flight.

At DFW, we missed a flight because of the liquids scare some years ago. It took over 2.5 hours to load our plane at CDG. All passengers went through six security checks, including two pat downs. We were thus late to DFW, and missed our connection.

In both instances, AA was on top of a very difficult and trying situation. As you can figure out, we got home. The airline was not going to pay for a hotel, and we did not expect that it would.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#7
When selecting other than direct flights I look at connection times and try to ensure that I am not on the last flight out, or if I am, how much time do I have for connections, and is that time enough for me to make it to the next gate (I look at airport maps and where I am sitting on the plane). I look to see if that airport often has ATC or weather delays (SFO and SEA have ATC delays often, ORD has weather delays often for example). I also look at options, and offer them to the call agent if I get stuck at an airport. I also head up to the airline lounge and see if those agents can re-route me quicker than what the computer automatically selects for me. There have also been times when I deliberately precooked a hotel near/at the connecting airport and booked a flight out for the next day. (each time I did that I was very glad as it turned out I would not have made the connection and would have been scrambling to find lodging and a new flight)
I'm with you, CTP. I expect nothing from an airline and if they help me, that's great. But I want to be as completely prepared for delays as possible. I want to know all my options. As you say, "offer those options and your choices to the agent", that gets you very good service. I'm sure agents get so tired of people just whining away about their personal situation. Talking with a pax who knows the score and is able to help himself has gotta be a winner. I've never precooked a hotel, tho, how does that work?
 
Feb 3, 2019
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#8
She entered the plane in DC late but had a chance (30 min windows) to catch the next flight from ORD to SNA.
It's unfortunate she chose to board the plane once her connection window had shrunk to nearly impossible. Sure, she might have made the second flight - if everything had gone exactly perfectly from that point. But as SoCalTraveler noted, once the airplane door had closed, it was too late for her to change her mind and deplane.

I've faced similar circumstances more than once, with weather delays shrinking my connection times drastically. Once, my circumstances allowed me to hit reset before I even got on the first flight, and I just rebooked my entire itinerary for the next day. Another time, though, I gambled and lost, and spent a very long day at a very busy airport before I could get on another flight to my destination. In neither case was the airline obligated to give me anything at all for my troubles.
 
Aug 29, 2018
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#10
When selecting other than direct flights I look at connection times and try to ensure that I am not on the last flight out,
It is easy when one travels for leisure, but often a business traveler is subject to various company policies. One often needs to take what the employer provides.

But that's neither here nor there.

The real issue is a lack of a requirement to provide reasonable care for passengers. If the US had a regulation like EU261, then article 9 requires that if a passenger is delayed overnight, the airline provide a hotel room and food. Americans should be demanding these rights from their government -- air costs in the EU are cheaper per mile, even with this regulation.
 
Likes: VoR61

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#11
It is easy when one travels for leisure, but often a business traveler is subject to various company policies. One often needs to take what the employer provides.

But that's neither here nor there.

The real issue is a lack of a requirement to provide reasonable care for passengers. If the US had a regulation like EU261, then article 9 requires that if a passenger is delayed overnight, the airline provide a hotel room and food. Americans should be demanding these rights from their government -- air costs in the EU are cheaper per mile, even with this regulation.
My head just exploded with the vision of airports in the middle of winter when a major storm rolls in and shuts every airline down......the number of hotel rooms in a city probably could not accommodate all the passengers who expect a free hotel room for their misery!
 
Aug 29, 2018
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#12
My head just exploded with the vision of airports in the middle of winter when a major storm rolls in and shuts every airline down......the number of hotel rooms in a city probably could not accommodate all the passengers who expect a free hotel room for their misery!
It depends on how far you travel -- but Chicago (to use an example) has 109,700 rooms -- and roughly 250,000 passengers per day. Given some are local, and some are families, this is not an intractable problem.

This is something Europeans can do. Why can't Americans?
 
Likes: VoR61
Aug 29, 2018
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#13
I'd also note that for every canceled outbound flight in a storm, there is usually a canceled inbound flight -- and with the potentially lost hotel reservations, etc. You might see more dispersal in storms; inbound flights to hubs might be more likely to get a pre-emtive cancelation; it is cheaper than getting a passenger stuck in a missed connection. Meanwhile, flight out from hubs would continue.

(We already have airlines pre-emptively cancel flights at major storms; so this only modifies the canceltion algorithm.) .

Rather than try to find excuses why things can't be done -- we should look for ways to do things to improve travel in the US.
 
Likes: mmb and VoR61
Jun 24, 2019
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#14
It depends on how far you travel -- but Chicago (to use an example) has 109,700 rooms -- and roughly 250,000 passengers per day. Given some are local, and some are families, this is not an intractable problem.

This is something Europeans can do. Why can't Americans?
I don't think Europeans have any special skill sets here. Maybe they are just more willing to sleep in an airport chair.

We were in Europe at the time of the liquids scare. Many airports in Europe were closed. CDG was open, so folks flocked to Paris. We arrived by train at, I believe, Gare d'Nord, and found it literally impossible to exit the train as the platform was packed with folks trying to figure out a way back to the States. At CDG, the airport was impassable. As airline desks there move about, I left my wife and the luggage to go find where we were to check in, and then retrieved her and the bags to make our way through this mass of displaced humanity. Thousands of Americans and Canadians slept in the terminal at that time waiting standby on any flight to any destination in North America. I heard from some of the displaced on our flight that there were no hotel rooms available at the airport, and no one wanted to go into Paris lest a standby seat came available.

And I've been at ORD during bad weather. You can see plenty of people sleeping on the floor. In one instance, we were prepared to do that, albeit in the Admiral's Club, which American said it would keep open round the clock for that purpose.
 
Feb 3, 2019
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#15
If the US had a regulation like EU261, then article 9 requires that if a passenger is delayed overnight, the airline provide a hotel room and food.
But not when the delay is due to "extraordinary conditions," such as immediate weather conditions, as in the original scenario in post #1.
 
May 7, 2019
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#16
Certain credit cards from Chase and, beginning Jan. 1, the Amex Platinum provide trip delay insurance when the flights are charged to these cards that would cover this very situation.
 
Likes: jsn55

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#17
It depends on how far you travel -- but Chicago (to use an example) has 109,700 rooms -- and roughly 250,000 passengers per day. Given some are local, and some are families, this is not an intractable problem.

This is something Europeans can do. Why can't Americans?
That is assuming that all the hotels are completely empty ready to receive airport passengers.....yeah, not likely! I don't have the answer but I doubt the US airline industry has the capacity to handle good customer service during an airport-wide shut down. If Europeans are able to handle these situations well, I would be curious to hear about it. That would take some really great management skills.
 
Oct 10, 2015
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#19
Preemptive cancellations ... It is not unusual for the last flight or two into an airport in a storm's track to be cancelled so the planes are not sitting there overnight. Then when the airport re-opens, the first flight or two are also cancelled because there are no planes.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#20
I had an experience flying within BC, Canada where I flew from my local airport to Vancouver to catch a connecting flight to my destination, Castlegar.
Had I been advised at my local airport that my connecting flight was cancelled, I could have rescheduled, gone home and tried again the next day. Instead, when I landed in Vancouver, I was then informed. The airport personnel were very helpful and joked that "Cancelgar" is the most cancelled flight airport in BC due to bad weather, low visibility and challenging terrain. Though Air Canada kindly gave me a hotel room and accommodations for the first night, it would have been more effective to have informed me before I started off. The 2nd day, the flight was cancelled again, and I had to pay out of pocket to stay another night in Vancouver. By the third morning, I risked cancelling my ticket and booking an alternative airline to a different airport in the same area. We flew out once only to be turned around back to Vancouver, then I got on their next flight out and made it. From that I learned, avoid Castlegar airport if you can! But I still don't understand why the airline didn't stop me from boarding the "puddle jumper" 20-minute flight from my local airport and rebook me at the check-in counter. For those living nearby the starting point (not en route), this would seem a viable option to save passengers the frustration and limit the back ups.