In response to my story JetBlue Falls from Grace After Horrendous Customer Service, Lies and the Gall of Their Spirit Airlines Bid, I received a question from follower Meg R. on Twitter yesterday asking me: “Per DOT rules, don’t they owe pax refunds if the airline cancels? Of course, pax need to know and insist.”

If you read the story above, you can tell that along with thousands of others, I’m really ticked off at JetBlue and the other airlines for not being able to manage their operations lately, even though they received billions of dollars from the government to do so. And then there’s the fact that they were blaming the weather, when in reality, that was just a small part of a bigger problem.

The real problem is not enough staff. I believe that JetBlue and other airlines are blaming the weather so they don’t have to cover hotel stays. To add insult to injury, a few days ago, JetBlue made a $3.6 billion bid to buy Spirit Airlines, while stranding thousands without accommodations.

Here’s what Meg R and other concerned travelers need to know:

What Do the Airlines Owe You If Your Flight is Cancelled?

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) website: “If my flight is cancelled, is the airline required to provide me with a hotel room, cab fare, a food voucher, or reimbursement for any other non-airline ticket costs associated with my trip? No. Airlines are not required to provide passengers with money or other compensation for costs that fall outside of the cancelled airline ticket and fees tied directly to the airline ticket (such as baggage fees, seat upgrades, etc.) when flights are cancelled.”

The DOT does offer this good advice: “Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for passengers whose flights have been cancelled.  If your flight is cancelled, ask the airline staff if they will pay for meals or a hotel room.  While some airlines offer these amenities to passengers, others do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers.”

Every passenger, whether they’re aware of it or not, agrees to the airline’s Contract of Carriage (COC) when they purchase a ticket. Of course, hardly anyone ever reads the COC because it’s long, boring and tedious.

Below are links to major U.S. airlines’ contracts of carriage, along with key snippets to make you better informed:

American Airlines (conditions of carriage)
Delays caused by us
“If the disruption is our fault or you’re diverted to another city, and we don’t board before 11:59 p.m. local time on your scheduled arrival day, we’ll arrange an overnight stay or cover the cost of an approved hotel, if available. We don’t guarantee reimbursement for hotel expenses if you book directly without written authorization from American Airlines.

Delays beyond our control (like weather)
If the delay is beyond our control, or you book your own arrangements without written authorization from American Airlines, you’re responsible to pay for your hotel, meals and other expenses. An American Airlines agent may be able to help you find a hotel.

Alaska Airlines
(Contract of carriage)
“Canceled: If the Passenger’s flight is canceled, and the city where the cancellation occurs is 100 miles away from the Passenger’s home, hotel accommodations may be provided. Accommodations include single or family rooms and round-trip ground transportation to an airport area hotel if such ground transportation is not furnished by the hotel. Alaska will provide at its option either one night’s hotel accommodations, or, if no hotel accommodations are provided and upon the Passenger’s request only, reimbursement for one night’s hotel accommodations in the form of an electronic travel certificate that may be applied to future travel on Alaska up to a maximum amount determined by Alaska. Such accommodations will only be provided when a Passenger incurs a delay that is expected to exceed four hours between the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. local time.

“Hotel accommodations will not be furnished to a Passenger whose trip is interrupted at a city which is his/her permanent domicile, origin point, or Stopover point or when such cancellation is due to circumstances outside Alaska’s control, including due to Force Majeure Events. Alaska will provide ground transportation to the place of lodging via public conveyance if such ground transportation is not furnished by the hotel. Where ground transportation has been offered but not accepted by a Passenger for whatever reason, Alaska is not liable to reimburse the Passenger for expenses relating to alternative ground transportation secured by the Passenger.”

Delta Air Lines (Contract of carriage)
“If overnight accommodations are available at Delta contracted facilities, Delta will provide the passenger with a voucher for one night’s lodging when the delay is during the period of 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. Delta will provide free public ground transportation to the hotel if the hotel does not offer such service. If accommodations are not available, Delta will provide the passenger with a voucher that may be applied to future travel on Delta equal in value to the contracted hotel rate, up to $100 USD.”

JetBlue Airways (Contract of carriage)
“If a Passenger’s travel is disrupted due to a Controllable Irregularity and the Passenger experiences a Departure Delay of six (6) of more hours, Carrier may, upon request from the Passenger, provide the following amenities: meal vouchers and/or a hotel voucher.”

Southwest Airlines (Customer service commitment)
“If the cause of your inconvenience is not within our means of control, we will do our best to assist you by securing a discounted rate at a hotel at or near the airport.”

Spirit Airlines (Contract of carriage)
“In the case of a cancellation or misconnection, if rebooking options are available the following day, and the cancellation was due to our failure, we may offer overnight hotel accommodations for non-local guests. However, if the cancellation or misconnection is caused by severe weather, Air Traffic Control decisions or other issues outside of Spirit’s control, we cannot offer such accommodations. We will, nevertheless, make reasonable efforts to provide information enabling guests to secure accommodations on their own. No lodging will be provided to a guest on any Spirit flight which is delayed or canceled in the originating city on the guest’s reservation.”

United Airlines (Contract of carriage)
“UA will provide at its option either one night’s lodging, or, if no lodging is provided and upon the passenger’s request only, reimbursement for one night’s lodging in the form of an electronic travel certificate that may be applied to future travel on UA up to a maximum amount determined by UA when a UA flight on which a Passenger is being transported incurs Irregular Operations and the Passenger incurs a delay that is expected to exceed four hours between the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. local time. Where lodging has been offered but not accepted by a Passenger for whatever reason, UA is not liable to reimburse the Passenger for expenses relating to alternative lodging secured independently by the Passenger. EXCEPTION: Lodging will not be furnished: To a Passenger whose trip is interrupted at a city which is his/her permanent domicile, origin point, or stopover point, or When the destination city airport that is designated on the Passenger’s Ticket and the city airport that the Passenger is diverted to are both within the following city groups: Baltimore, MD (BWI)/Washington D.C. Dulles IAD)/Washington D.C. National (DCA) Brownsville, TX (BRO/Harlingen, TX (HRL)/McAllen, TX (MFE) Burbank, CA (BUR)/Los Angeles, CA (LAX)/Ontario, CA (ONT)/Orange County, CA (SNA)/Long Beach, CA (LGB) Chicago, IL O’Hare (ORD)/Chicago, IL Midway (MDW)/Milwaukee, WI (MKE) Colorado Springs, CO (COS)/Denver, CO (DEN) Dallas, TX Dallas-Ft. Worth International (DFW)/Dallas, TX Love Field (DAL) Lauderdale, FL (FLL)/Miami, FL (MIA)/West Palm Beach, FL (PBI) Houston, TX Bush Intercontinental (IAH)/Houston, TX Ellington AFB (EFD)/Houston, TX Hobby(HOU) Oakland, CA (OAK)/San Francisco, CA (SFO)/San Jose, CA (SJC) Newark, NJ Newark International (EWR)/New York, NY La Guardia (LGA)/New York, NY Kennedy (JFK)/White Plains, NY (HPN) London, UK Gatwick (LGW)/London, UK Heathrow (LHR). When such interruption is due to circumstances outside UA’s control.”

I didn’t realize that JetBlue even claims they will provide a hotel (if requested by the passenger), which makes their handling of the past 10 days even more infuriating. If I was a passenger on a JetBlue flight (or any airline) that got delayed overnight or more and if wasn’t because of weather, I would definitely contact the airline’s customer service team and kindly ask for them to reimburse my hotel, transportation and/or meals.

If you were one of those travelers who were stuck, leave a comment below with the details of the airline, the reason for delay/cancelation and if the airline provided you with any lodging, transportation, meal vouchers or travel vouchers.

What Are Your Rights When Your Flight Is Cancelled in Europe?
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If You Fly to or From Canada, Canada’s New Airline Passenger Rights Apply to You
Airline Passenger Rights in Europe Now Apply to People on These Flights
Want to Sue Your Airline? Not So Fast



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1 Comment On "If an Airline Severely Delays or Cancels Your Flight, Are They Obligated to Cover Your Hotel Accommodations?"
  1. Robbins|

    Over the course of 5 days JetBlue provided us zero compensation. We were a family traveling with 3 kids and a wheelchair assisted senior.

    • JetBlue never consider schedules, work, missed medication, etc and was very blasé about trying to find rebooking options within reasonable timelines.
    • No vouchers were provided for hotels, food or other incidental expenses.
    • We paid for rides to and from the airport to sort out issues, unrelated to when we were actually checking in and boarding planes.
    • Countless hours were spent on the phone, in person and on chat to try and find alternatives to return home.
    They arbitrarily cancelled flights and would push us out for more days. It’s as if they wanted to keep us there to keep spending money. They was no regard for anyone’s schedule or needs. We spent over $6,000 over those 5 nights as there were limited options for us.

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