Can you negotiate compensation for a delayed flight?

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By | June 16th, 2017

If you’re Janet Sternbach, yes, you can negotiate for more compensation following a flight delay. But, as she discovered, your airline might not give you as much as you want.

Sternbach isn’t sure she should take American Airlines’ second offer of compensation for her flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Ottawa, Canada, which was delayed twice and then canceled. She missed a day and a half of her trip and had to take a $43 cab ride to her destination in Ottawa.

Sternbach, who is 80 years old and claims to be “technologically challenged,” wants to know if American Airlines offered her enough compensation. Let’s take a look at how well she negotiated for herself:

“The airline said the two delays and cancellation were due to mechanical issues,” says Sternbach. “I have an email from them stating it was canceled for maintenance. This was for me to submit to my travel insurance, which was denied.”

American Airlines offered Sternbach a $200 voucher. But Sternbach didn’t think it adequately compensated her for the inconvenience of losing a day and half of her trip along with the cab fare. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Sternbach then heard from an employee of American Airlines, who upped the offer to 10,000 frequent flyer miles or $250. She responded by asking for some time to consider the offer. Then she contacted our advocates for help, asking whether she should negotiate further with American. (Executive contact information for American Airlines appears on our website.) Her own desired resolution was a round-trip airfare to Canada for a future trip.

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American Airlines’ International General Rules Tariff provides that


If, at time of departure, AA cancels a flight, fails to operate according to schedule, fails to stop at a point to which the passenger is destined or is ticketed to stop over…, carrier will either: … carry the passenger on another of its passenger aircraft on which space is available without additional charge regardless of the class of service; or

  1. endorse to another carrier or other transportation service, the unused portion of the ticket for purposes of rerouting; or
  2. reroute the passenger to the destination named on the ticket or applicable portion thereof by its own or other transportation services; and, if the fare, excess baggage charges, and any applicable service charge for the revised routing or class of service is higher than the refund value of the ticket or applicable portion thereof…, carrier will require no additional payment from the passenger, but will refund the difference if it is lower; or exception: AA will reroute the passenger as provided above, but without stopover at any point on the rerouted portion of the trip.
  3. (a) transport the passenger on another economy class flight on which space is available, or
  4. (b) transport the passenger to the destination shown on its portion of the ticket on AA’s next first class flight on which space is available, at no additional fare, if so doing will provide an earlier arrival than the next economy class flight on which space is available.
  5. make involuntary refund …

Since American Airlines rebooked Sternbach on its next available flight to Ottawa in accordance with this provision, the airline isn’t going to offer her a refund or a free round-trip flight to Canada.

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We advised Sternbach that we believe the offer of 10,000 frequent flyer miles or $250 is a fair resolution. Sternbach responded: “Thank you for your opinion. I’m not one that appreciates a lot of government regulation/intervention, but in the case of airlines, they need to be regulated again.”

We’re asking our readers:

Do you agree with Janet Sternbach that airline compensation for delayed and canceled flights should be regulated by the federal government?

View Results

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  • Don Spilky

    Please, please, please! Would be so helpful to have a US version of EU 261.

  • BubbaJoe123

    It would be crazy to return to the old days of airline regulation (pre-1978), given that would result in massive increases in prices.

    That said, imposing some compensation scheme along the lines of the EU261 rules would definitely be a good idea.

  • Alan Gore

    Pre1978 regulations concerned routes and fares. What’s needed today is a standardization of policy, so travelers know what to expect with specified legal rights when situations like the above occur.

  • PsyGuy

    You can negotiate anything, succeeding is an entirely different question.

    If the LW is technologically challenged, how was she able to contact Chris?

    I voted yes, because without regulation carriers will write their COC to provide nothing as far as compensation.

  • PsyGuy

    Yes it would.

  • PsyGuy

    At least some basic minimums. I’m less interested in compensation than I am getting on the next available flight quickly, regardless of the plan I fly, and in the meantime getting some food/beverage vouchers or a lounge pass.

  • PsyGuy

    They already have that it’s called the COC.

  • jsn55

    Travelling is fraught with peril. I’ve spent a night at the Toronto airport, a week at Heathrow. Delays are a risk you take when travelling. You may experience just perfect scheduling without a single flaw, or you may arrive at your destination 2 days later than you planned. There can be many reasons for this. I can’t help but think that an airline who is required to compensate a planeload of people for a mechanical delay will eventually let the ‘mechanicals’ slide and create unsafe situations. I don’t think people should expect the airline to compensate them for much more than some miles and/or some cash. Stuff happens, travellers need to deal with it.

  • LonnieC

    You spent a week at Heathrow? Sounds like a bad movie….

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