An extra night in a city away from home can be a blessing or a curse, but either way – it’s an expense. Hotels aren’t exactly cheap, neither are meals, nor is getting to the airport. But what if you didn’t have to pay for it? In certain parts of the world, airlines are required to take care of stranded passengers, whatever the reason for the delay or cancellation. To find out if your situation is covered in the US or Europe, or anywhere on an airline from one of these places – read on!

US Rules

If your flight is taking place within the US, you’re entitled to nothing. Like, literally, not even peanuts. But even though you’re not entitled to anything, each airline offers different policies regarding how it handles passengers. Some are more generous than others. Whatever the official policy, it never hurts to ask for things. For international flights departing the US on European Airlines, you may find better protections.

Alaska Airlines Policy

If you’re more than 100 miles from home and your flight is cancelled overnight for reasons other than weather or air traffic control, Alaska will provide hotel and round trip ground transportation. Unfortunately, if it’s weather related, you get nothing.

American Airlines Policy

Regardless of reason, American Airlines may offer a “distressed passenger” rate at certain hotels. This rate will mean you potentially pay less than you would’ve but it’s not a free night and you may do better on your own.

Delta Airlines Policy

If not due to weather, Delta will issue a complimentary voucher for a one night hotel stay and public transportation to hotel, if a contracted hotel is available. If a contracted hotel is not available, Delta will refund hotel expenses up to $100 per night.

United Airlines Policy

If due to mechanical or issues within United’s control, the airline will attempt to accommodate you in one of their contracted hotels. If one is not available, an agent at the airport will provide an authorization letter, stating the amount the passenger may claim. The passenger must then submit receipts and authorization letter for reimbursement.

How it Works

Always check with the airline before booking any travel expenses if these issues arise. The airline has the right to assign a complimentary hotel, if available. If they are not willing to offer anything, keep track of your expenses and receipts – and ask for a letter from the airline stating your flight delay. You’ll then want to email them copies of everything and ask for compensation of your reasonable expenses. Don’t expect anything, but it may work out.

European Union Rules

If your flying within the European Union, you’re entitled to great relief if an overnight stay is required. It does not matter what caused the overnight stay, as long as you have a valid ticket for the date and checked in on time. Even weather related issues will still get you full benefits, if and only if you’re stranded away from home. If you are stranded, your hotel, round trip airport transfers and reasonable meal expenses are covered by the airline. This is incredible.

Airlines This Applies To

If you’re flying from the European Union on any airline, regardless of destination and you’re forced to overnight – this counts.  All airlines must comply with these rules, which is great news for passengers. Airlines must cover next available flight, overnight hotel and airport transfers. We spoke with British Airways, who mentioned they cover reasonable meals as well. We believe many others offer the same.

How It Works

You must first get in contact with your airline via airport agent, phone, Twitter or any other method. The airline has the right to choose your hotel, if one of their contracted hotels is available. If one is not, they will outline the process for getting refunded, and you’ll need to book your own hotel. Don’t go crazy and try to book a Presidential Suite though, only standard rooms will be covered, but at least you’ll get to pick the best reasonable option.

Good to know, right?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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5 Comments

  1. Last Delta flight of the day. Oversold, asking for volunteers (got up to $1000 voucher plus hotel plus meal vouchers plus flight the next morning). After a long business trip (connecting from long TPAC flight), I just wanted to get home so I sat tight. After boarding, sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour. Captain announces flight is cancelled because of fog at destination airport. No voucher, paid my own hotel and dinner, got home even later than the previously offered flight (some passengers were less lucky and had to stay 2 nights!). Lesson learned.

  2. i had a problem with British Airways a few years ago wjenall flights to USEast Coast cancelled due to snow. I was rebooking ticket and nothing was offered (i was flying Club and managing our corporate BA contract at the time so i knew what they should offer). When i requested a hotel the agent seemed bothered by it telling me she couldn’t guarantee i could be back at airport in morning as london was expected to get 2” of snow. I took food vouchers and booked myself into Sofitel T5 on my expense account instead. i was lucky work trip but i was disappointed with BA response with everyone. No one was offered a hotel in my Club line.
    i have My Rights app now to show staff what my rights are for compensation

    as for the US – due to weather i was stuck on plane 5hrs+ before takeoff on my 5 hr flight and received nothing – no food,drink etc for nearly 12hrs onboard. thankfully US airlines are learning to cancel in advance and no fee to change when they can

  3. VERY DIFFICULT to find any assistance on how to apply for a hotel that I had to pay for bc Delta cancelled the flight!!!

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