Will Airlines Reimburse Hotel Stays Due To Canceled Flights?

Filed Under: Advice, Hotels

Reader Daniel123 asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

I missed one of two nights at the Peninsula Beijing due to American Airline’s maintenance delay. I did not incur an additional night elsewhere, just spend the additional time on planes and in airports.

If I miss a hotel night I paid for and it was American’s “Fault,” does anyone cover it for me? I realize I didn’t have additional costs, but I would have clearly picked a different hotel if I knew I would pay 2 nights for a 1 night stay.

Taking this to the logical extreme, say I’m staying at an inspirational property for $2k per night and an airline causes me to miss one or two nights – who pays then? Does the credit card every come into play here? Thanks!

It’s an interesting question, and one I can certainly relate to, as over the years I’ve dealt with a countless number of flight cancelations which have led to overnight delays.

Practically speaking, when an airline cancels a flight for reasons within their control (like maintenance) they’ll “make you whole” for any costs you’ve incurred. But as you mention, your case is sort of the inverse of that, where you’re not incurring extra costs, but rather are not getting all the value out of something you paid for. With that in mind, what’s the best way to approach this, and what should you expect?


Always contact the hotel first

Of course the airline canceling your flight is totally outside a hotel’s control. That being said, over the years I’ve had good luck calling hotels immediately in the cases of a flight cancelation and explaining the situation. Almost without exception they’ve been willing to refund the rate for the night I miss. That’s certainly not an “entitlement,” but I find that if you ask nicely you’ll usually do quite well, at least when the circumstances are beyond your control.

What can you expect from the airline?

It certainly can’t hurt to contact customer relations and request to be reimbursed for the cost of the night you missed out on. Unfortunately it’s unlikely they’ll honor the request, though.

Practically speaking I think it’s much more likely that they’ll issue you some sort of a “gesture of goodwill,” whether it comes in the form of some bonus miles or a voucher towards a future trip.


If you’ve been in a similar situation, what was your experience like?

  1. If for some reason, you’ve taken out trip insurance, they should cover the cost. We generally take it out for international trips as my husband’s health insurance does not have international coverage. It will pay for trip interruption costs.

  2. I had this back in December 2013 from LHR -> HKG -> DPS. Due to 100mph winds at Heathrow, our Virgin Atlantic flight couldn’t take off, meaning it was delayed by around 21 hours. It therefore meant we missed out connecting CX flights from HKG to DPS and didn’t get to stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. The situation surprised me someway, as I’m a huge fan of AMEX and find them to be a truly amazing company, yet even though the entire holiday was booked with them via a Platinum card, I was quite shocked to see just how weak their insurance was under this type of situation.

    In the end, luckily the Mandarin did not charge us anything. Like you said in your initial post, most hotels are quite decent about this and seeing that they were picking us up from the airport they could have seen we couldn’t make it anyway and our flight genuinely was delayed. They gained some serious points in my view for this attitude, making sure we’ve used them since then. Secondly, CX charged us a massive fee of £80 to cancel our J flights, which I also found astonishingly generous. If that was a European airliner, I may as well have kissed my money goodbye. The only negative was this was Aman. We were staying at Amandari, and they would not do anything about moving our dates, so therefore it was a case of getting to HKG and getting on the next available flight. As luck had it, it was with Hong Kong Airlines and we flew out in J with only 2 other people in the cabin, giving us a 1:1 ratio of flight attendants to people, which was quite nice. It meant we arrived at Amandari around 4am, so I had essentially paid $1500 to sleep in a bed for a few hours.

    In the end, AMEX gave us £600 compensation, which covered the over night stay and breakfast we had at the hotel during the 21 hour delay, and Virgin gave us quite a lot more due to how badly they handled the situation (I’m fine in delays and would never have complained for the wind delaying us, but Virgin handled it very, very badly).

  3. Even Hotwire will refund an opaque nonrefundable hotel booking if your flight is cancelled.

  4. Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with trip delay coverage if you book your common carrier travel with the card. Basically if you’re stranded more than 12 hours (or overnight), the coverage kicks in. Last year, I was stranded overnight in northern Vermont after the airport shut down and had a check from Visa a few weeks after submitting my claim for food/lodging costs and incidentals etc. We were heading home so no cancelled hotel nights, but it might be worth looking into for those that have the card.

    Otherwise, travel insurance for sure on these aspirational trips – totally worth it, especially if you need to be medevac’d out or something. Saw that in the French Alps when a guy broke his leg on the slopes… family vacation = ruined.

  5. Most of airlines in China will book you hotels. If you are Air China gold, you usually get Air China Hotel (Former Renaissance by Marriott, Beijing Airport ). Hainan airlines will book you Hainan Airlines Marriott Beijing, China Eastern and China Southern however, will book creepy hotels for you. So stay away from that two airlines .

  6. I briefly worked in a position that handled customer inquiries like this, at pre merger UA. The general rule of thumb was, Global Services, 1K, or paid F/C customers would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, based on status/price paid, a form letter would be sent citing the contract of carriage (which essentially holds the airline responsible for nothing). If, for example, the customer was a Premier, or someone on an award C-class ticket, we might enclose two $100 off certs. Or for a no-status coach pax, the letter would be it. It’s probably still very much the same. Overall, only a small % of folks got compensation – I’d say 10% or so.

  7. While there is credit card insurance UA tries to encourage pax to take up their insurance. One flight I had, perhaps to Brazil on UA metal, for about 2k, UA wanted about $230 for insurance cover! I thought, do they have no confidence in their own abilities to get me there and back?

  8. @ Levy Flight — Hah, those insurance companies pay the airlines huge commissions for promoting their products. Kinda funny, though.

  9. Make sure you have stand-alone independent travel insurance covering domestic and international travel. If you are a frequent traveller an annual policy will serve you well. Shop around, ignoring airline offerings, to see which policy suits your travel plans.

  10. Most airlines will put you up for the night, but at an airport hotel.

    AA uses the Crown Plaza at PEK, about $100.00 a night free shuttle,

    Good luck on a $2,000 a night room, in PEK..

  11. My husband and I were on the famous BA flight from Miami to London (a long time) ago that sat on the Tarmac for 3 days because of a computer problem. We were flying first class and were on vacation. BA put us up and fed us for three days. We managed to cancel our hotel in London without charge….and decided just to see what might happen. On the third day, BA found us another flight to London, but instead of Heathrow, this one went to Gatwick….after we were on the second flight, the original one took off….with our luggage….They could not unload it but would deliver it to Gatwick. The CEO of BA met the plane at Heathrow, gave everyone a ticket for a future flight in class and 600 English pounds….We got our luggage 24 hrs later……It made for an interesting vacation and a great story even years later….We should have just stayed on the original plane…..

  12. Just wondering — what is the OP’s definition of an “inspirational” hotel? 🙂

  13. In February we were flying first class with a purchased coach ticket and points upgrade, out of Philadelphia, nonstop to SLC on a Friday afternoon, for our annual ski vacation. Rather than hotel we had condo reservations, non refundable. Our plane went off the taxi way into a snow bank where we sat for over 6 hours before they could pull us out. Yes they gave us nuts, free drinks, were apologetic and we could use the bathroom but after finally getting back to the gate at 1 AM, they canceled the flight and couldn’t get us on another flight out until Monday so we missed two condo nights and two days of paid lift tickets. US Airways put 50,000 points total in our account for the two tickets in addition to flying us out two days later. I just accepted the points but if you add it up it wasn’t a great compensation considering the condo was $300 per night, extra trip with rapid rover $100, two days lift tickets paid in advance for two people $280 for an out of pocket loss of $980.

  14. SQ reimbursed me about 4 months ago when one their flight went mechanical at BOM for hotel, taxis and food. In addition, when boarding the flight next day, they provided all passengers with a box of Godiva chocolate and those in J and F with SGD 200 towards in-flight duty free. The issue was not that the flight went mechanical but with ground handling (it took SQ 6 hours to get the passengers exit from India cancelled with no updates provided to passengers). Indian media showed up and it was a relatively big fiasco for a flight that went mechanical.

  15. OP here, and Lucky thanks for doing a post on this. I feel almost famous. First of all, sorry for the egregious spelling errors- that was on my iphone (I understand the difference between aspiration and inspiration :). Many people didn’t “get” that this is not about incurring costs because of a delay, but forgoing a hotel paid hotel night due to delay.

    I contacted both the hotel and Agoda, and each wanted a “proof of cancellation letter” from American. I had never heard of this, but sure enough there is a form on AA for this. I also submitted them a photo of my boarding passes, and that was not good enough. I just filled out the form on AA, and I will report back with the process and outcome on that. Thanks everyone!

  16. I’m in the.marines. i got a leave to attend a fellow marine’s wedding as the best man. he lost a limb fighting for america and it makes me sick AA uses that name. anyway they could have got this marine on time to the wedding but refused cause the only seat left was first class. they probably put some rich prick in that seat. anyway AA refused to pay back my hotel and return flight. Did I mention I am an enlisted marine with a family so the hotel was pretty much a months paycheck. I am starting a petition to force that airline to take American out of its name. They control the market with a monopoly, they fix prices, provide horrid service and have been making record profits doing so. they know the people have no choice when it comes to aif travel and now they are just giving the people a giant FU. We need to get the DOJ to prosecute them.

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