Flight Cancellation Compensation – My Experience

Flight Cancellation Compensation – My Experience

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Those who follow me on Instagram (@miningformiles) know that I’m currently in Israel. (I’ll be here for two months on assignment, but that’s besides the point).

Flying is always a fun experience (heavy sarcasm intended), but miles, points and the perks that come with credit cards can make it a bit more enjoyable. Sometimes, a wrench is thrown into the highly operationalized system of airline operations. Most commonly this is bad weather, but sometimes this is because of pilot strikes or a mechanical error.

In any event, sometimes fliers are eligible for monetary compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.

The laws are numerous and complicated, but you are almost always entitled to some sort of compensation when there is a mechanical error which severely delays or cancels a flight.

On Wednesday evening I headed to the airport and of course, I received a notification of my delayed flight after already arrived and made it through the security and into the lounge. Delays on DL 468 (from JFK to Tel Aviv) were apparently commonplace.

However, I began to wonder why: there was some bad weather, but only earlier in the day. After all, this flight was leaving pretty late (11:55 PM) in the night. Ah, a mechanical malfunction. They needed to send a new plane from Atlanta instead of the flight from San Francisco (the one with mechanical issues).

The delay notifications on Delta app and TripIt continued to roll in. I wentto the lounge agent and ask what the problem is: now they have a working plane, but that aircraft is delayed because of bad weather out of Atlanta. Great.

Airline employees (baggage handles, flight attendants, pilots, etc,) are heavily unionized. What happens when a severely delayed flight from Atlanta lands in New York? Delta needs to pay everyone overtime and that’s it. They can’t continue working because they’ve “timed out”. At 2:30 AM, they’d be pretty hard pressed to find a fresh crew!

After several minutes of getting rebooked (knowing that the flight would indeed be cancelled), I proceeded to collect my luggage… at 2:30 AM, as instructed. Baggage claim was closed. Delta check-in counters were closed. Delta baggage customer service center? Closed.

To make a long story short, I ended up getting my bags and on a better flight than the one they had rebooked me on.

My Compensation

Because this cancellation was mechanical, Delta owed me compensation. In situations such as this, a $200.00 voucher is pretty standard. The voucher expires within one year and can be used in any class of service on any flight bookable on Delta.com. Pretty good… But I knew I could do better.

  • $100.00 voucher
  • 50,000 Delta Skymiles
  • All transportation to/from airport covered with taxi vouchers – I received four of these; roughly about $280 in value.

Woah.

That’s like the new limited time Delta AMEX credit card sign ups!

Isn’t $200 better than 50,000 miles? Probably, but not in the form of a voucher. Cold hard cash is the best. But the voucher’s a bit more limited in Delta’s case. They expire. Delta miles do not. And as we already explored, Delta has some good partner uses (discussed here) to take advantage of. All I had to do, was miss my flight 😉

Receiving Compensation

  1. Know the rules. Even in severe weather, you can usually get the airline to cover transportation to/from hotel, the hotel and food. They usually will not cover lodging if that airport is your home airport. Right after my flight was cancelled, I read the Contract of Carriage for Delta. This is the binding agreement between you and the airline in which you purchased your ticket from. How to find the Contract of Carriage? Google ‘[Insert Airline] Contact of Carriage]’. They’re usually pretty reader friendly. It explains the rules in the event of a cancellation or severe delay.
  2. Be prepared… 
    • With alternative flights. Airlines will rebook you on one of their flights, or a partner flights. Know your alliances.  They will only rebook you on a non-alliance partner (in this case, with Israel, that would be El Al) if there are no other options.
    • Willingness to be flexible. If you’re booked in a business class ticket, they are obligated to rebook you in the same class of service, but if it’s all full, and you need to get to your destination, decide which is more important.
      • PRO-TIPSites like ExpertFlyer can help you be prepared with seat-class availability and alternative flight options.
  3. Don’t be afraid. A cancelled flight is a headache. No doubt about it. But don’t be afraid to ask for compensation for food, lodging or transportation; call and even send a message to customer service. You’ll usually get something.
  4. Be nice. You can get some really helpful and friendly gate agent or lounge agents if you come to them with a smile. Remember, they’re at the airport with the delayed and cancelled flights, too.

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