Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Should Airlines Compensate Stranded Fliers?

I read a timely news item today in the USA Today Travel section on hundreds and thousands of U.S. passengers stranded at airports and hotels unable to get home. Many of these people having to pay for extra days in hotels and food while just waiting to to book and get another flight to their original destination. Some airlines have waived their fees for re-booking flights, but they do not compensate passengers for the extra meals or hotel night they must pay for while they wait for their new flight. The article quotes passengers who waited 8 days just to get through to re-book a flight. Three hour waits on the phone and crashed websites only to find out when you got through, you could not be booked for days and were stranded. Customer satisfaction with the airlines seems to only be getting worse.

For families in this situation this can be a nightmare. Hotel, food and added car rental costs can skyrocket the budget. It you can't find a hotel then keeping the kids occupied, napped, exercised, fed, hydrated, and tantrum-free in the airport, while you wait can expensive and stressful. Not to mention work and school times that can really affect families.
As I sit here in Massachusetts while Logan airport is closed and the television is showing people sleeping at the airport due to the mayor storm outside my window, I wonder how it is that airlines can question people's reaction to them. My family decided long ago that if we can drive somewhere in under 8 hours we drive instead of fly. Between cost of flights, cost of luggage, cost of drinks and food previously free, time in flight, time at airport before flight and after, it is not worth flying for us anymore. As an agent so many of my customers feel flying for travel is a necessary evil, that can not be avoided.

How do you feel about airline customer service, especially when there are delays and cancellations? Do you think airlines should be doing more for their passengers?

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V said...

We have never been stranded, but I believe alot of it is just unavoidable due to the weather. If they cant get planes in because of shut downs than they just cant get planes in.
I do believe that in many cases it could all be handled better/differently, but I believe it is a chance you take traveling in the winter months.
You could end up in a similar situation driving. We have all seen the highways jammed with cars and trucks for hours on end.
Once again, just a chace you take.

Judy1229 said...

The airlines should compensate passengers for delays or cancelations, food vouchers for starters, then if necessary, put them up in a hotel. Personally, I don't "expect" the airlines to do anything above and beyond for me if I am delayed do to weather conditions, those can not be controlled. However, if it is mechanical, or something that is within their control, then I would expect they would take a moment and go the extra mile to make good of a bad situation.
I'm with you, if your destination is within a reasonable, a little extra time in the car can be worth it.

Gloria Caruso said...

Yes, but 8 days trying to get through to rebook? Or three hours on hold while you are someplace unfamiliar? Airlines know these things happen, and can have contingency plans for call centers, and at airports for their passengers. They charge us for everything, but when they change our plans we have to be the ones to incur the fees. Cancellations and delays due to weather will happen, and not the airlines fault, but how they handle their already paid customers is. It is wrong to wait days to get through to the airlines to rebook.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not! Travelers need to monitor conditions and if necessary adjust their plans. It may mean heading home early or modifying your trip.

If you get cauht up in the snow, it is on your dime, no one elsesingsl

Gloria Caruso said...

Anonymous I agree, but if you can't adjust your plans because you can not get through to them, or they say you can't get out for many days then what?

Ships 'N' Trips Travel said...

This really highlights the need to work with a good travel agent. Instead of waiting on hold for 3 hours with an airline, call (or text or email) your travel agent. They often have computer systems (GDS) they can use to access reservations and make changes, so they don't need to be stuck on hold either.

As for compensation for hotels, food, etc. that is outside of the requirement for airlines to cover when it's weather related ... and one of the greatest reasons for having travel insurance to cover these unexpected costs.

Swtgypsy said...

Great article. I think one of the chances you take when traveling in the winter is getting stuck at the airport due winter storms. I think customer service left the airline industry years ago and we all know that and the airlines are not responsible for the weather. Be prepared with travel insurance and a good travel agent that might be able to help when stranded. It would be nice to see the airlines at least give out water and coffee to those stranded.

Chuck Brook said...

I love your article. It tells a story that people can learn from. Traveling during the holiday season can be stressful.