Did United offer me compensation for a rough night in the ballroom?

By | January 18th, 2013

united tailAmanda Ellis says she was “very upset” after her United Airlines flight from Honolulu to the Marshall Islands was canceled because of a sick crewmember.

It wasn’t the one-day delay. Ellis, her husband and seven-year-old son were flying to the islands to adopt their daughter. It wasn’t even the fact that they spent the night under less than desirable circumstances.

It was the way in which the airline tried to compensate the family for the inconvenience, she says.

The Ellises had done everything by the book — or at least, they thought they had.

“We arrived two hours ahead of flight time for check in,” she says. “At 5:35 a.m., they announced our flight is canceled until tomorrow morning due to a crew member being ill.”

United couldn’t find hotels for anyone on the plane, so it placed all the passengers in the ballroom of a Marriott and provided cots for them to sleep on.

“No bathrooms, no water provided,” she says. “Just pull out your cot with 60 strangers for the night.”

I’ve slept under similar circumstances before as a solo traveler, and it’s not comfortable. I can’t imagine trying it with a seven-year-old.

This is what United would euphemistically call a “schedule irregularity.” Here’s what it says you’re entitled to, according to its contract of carriage:

F) Amenities for Delayed Passengers

1) Lodging – UA will provide one night’s lodging, or a maximum allowance for one night’s lodging as established by each location, when a UA flight on which a Passenger is being transported incurs a Schedule Irregularity 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.

It all comes down to the accepted definition of “lodging.” Does a cot in a ballroom constitute lodging? I wonder if they made the first-class passengers bunk down with everyone else? I imagine not.

“I do not believe this was a hotel stay,” she says.

Ellis complained after her trip, and United sent her a $250 voucher that expired in a year.

“But we have no plans on traveling in the next year,” she adds. Ellis thinks United should either offer a refund or give her a voucher that doesn’t expire, so that she can travel when she’s ready.

I’m not sure if a refund is in order, but I think a strong case could be made for extending her vouchers. The bigger issue is this: How does United define “lodging”? If this definition is allowed to stand, what’s to stop it from setting up cots at the airport terminal and telling stranded passengers to take it or leave it?

United should have found a real hotel for the Ellises and the other delayed customers. It seems to me that contacting the Transportation Department might actually yield better compensation for her and the 60 other passengers who slept in the Marriott ballroom that night.

Did United offer the Ellises enough compensation?

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  • Raven_Altosk

    Sounds like United got out of this one cheap. I mean, a ballroom set up like a Red Cross shelter is way less expensive than 100 plus hotel rooms.

    I doubt their crew would agree to such conditions…but it’s fine for the cargo!!

    United needs to do better here.

  • $16635417

    Anytime I’ve encountered a “schedule irregularity”, and been entitled to a room, I’ve gotten one…except for one instance. It was in Las Vegas and there were no rooms to be found. We were even advised that if we could find a room, to let the agent know to arrange for payment. I looked online and could not find a room in Vegas either. I simply rented a car and drove to Los Angeles. (This was United….pre-merger.)

    The OP doesn’t state if there was a similar issue here. Is a room better than the setup they got? Yes. Is the setup they got better than trying to find a place to sit in the gate area? Yes.

    I believe the intent of the contract, when written, was to provide a hotel room for stranded passengers. Since they could not find (or would not find) a room, they should be owed more.

    As far as the crew getting a hotel room, I would be fine with that. I would prefer the person flying the plane get a good night’s sleep. If United was able to find a few rooms and gave them to the first class passengers, I understand that as well. You pay more, you get treated better….that’s nothing new.

  • TonyA_says

    This happened to me in JFK. I refused to stay in a roach motel in Queens so I stayed in JFK from 10AM to 3AM. I opted to get the food (meal) certificates instead. Note this is before taking a 22 hour flight. Needless to day I felt real sick upon arrival at destination.

  • technomage1

    She’s not entitled to a full refund, but a “space bucks” voucher she may or may not use doesn’t cut the mustard either. I’d say a partial refund, say around $150 to $200 would be appropriate.

  • TonyA_says

    What DOT compensation are you talking about? I am not aware that the US DOT requires airlines to provide lodging when flights are delayed or cancelled. These are voluntary. That said, the airlines will set their own rules just like United did. Under the US system of airline passenger rights (or lack thereof), United doesn’t owe them anything else. Sad but it’s true.

    Oh and by the way, do you know of any other way to get to Majuro (MAJ), Marshall Islands? I checked and found only 3 flights a week (Mon, Wed, Fri) from HNL; all from United. They are lucky they only got delayed overnight.

  • john4868

    Personally, I don’t think the UA had trouble finding rooms on Oahu. I think they had trouble finding rooms at the price point they wanted to pay. Having said that, this is service recovery so the voucher is appropriate but the amount was too low. That amount wouldn’t have covered the hotel night on Oahu. I’d be happy with $500 in two separate vouchers since the amount of the voucher has to be used in its entirety .

    Edit: And I don’t see how contacting DOT does anything for her. It might cost UA some additional money in a fine but the passenger gets nothing out of that.

  • Alan Gore

    I could understand United not being able to find hotel rooms in Whitefish, MT, but…Honolulu?

  • marie3656

    Wait–no bathroom? In a Marriott? Sounds like an exaggeration to me.

    But regardless, they should still receive much more than what they were offered. A 24 hour delay and no comfortable accommodations? It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t UA’s fault that there were no rooms. It’s still their responsibility. Plus, I agree with Alan and John. I think it’s more likely that UA couldn’t find cheap rooms.

  • Joe Smith

    OMG do airlines do this often? If you saw the Superdome after hurricane Katrina, I think you’d agree $250 isn’t any where close to enough.

  • That’s partially correct. DOT requires airlines follow their contract of carriage, and United’s contract provided lodging for this passenger’s type of delay.

  • TonyA_says

    OK so who gets to INTERPRET the COCs if not the one who made it?
    This thing is so ridiculously one sided so you might as well count your blessings that you are not under a tent somewhere or sleeping in an airport.

    ADDED: Why didn’t they take the MAXIMUM ALLOWANCE as per the COC and find a hotel on their own?

  • Vox_Rationis13

    Wondering if we can’t get more info from the OP. I’m SURE she as well as every other pax would’ve been online looking for rooms. Were any available? At what price point? And was the voucher $250 in total or $250 each? If I were in her situation, I think I’d be happy with $250 each.

  • Exactly my point. I could set up a tent in my back yard and call it “lodging.”

  • Did United try to get the passengers on other flights?

    Here’s the way United really screwed up: Having a secret compensation ceiling. United should admit up front, maybe in their actual terms, that they’ll only pay up to a certain amount for lodging. Then United should find rooms and give the passengers the choice to pay the difference. This, of course, if there’s a choice between two ROOMS! Cots in a hotel ballroom are NOT acceptable in this case, when there was no natural disaster or crime emergency that was out of anyone’s control.

    Staffing problems are United’s problem, not one that should be shared with the passengers. United should have taken the loss and put the guests up in a hotel, or done the legwork to find flights on other carriers and given the passengers the choice of buying a new ticket and taking partial refunds from United (because presumably the passengers would be flying BACK on United.)

  • I’m sure she meant “no showers”!

  • SoBeSparky

    The passengers should have received compensation for lodging, ground transport to lodging and meals. Since they did not receive lodging, even with 30,088 hotel rooms on the island, they should receive cash compensation for the lodging. United should send them a check for $150. Or make that $250 voucher valid for five years.

  • sffilk

    This doesn’t surprise me though I will admit, United’s “answer” shows it’s just as bad as when United Broke a certain $2,500 guitar. It doesn’t really care about its customers.

  • emanon256

    United just keeps getting worse and worse. Unbelievable. I am at a loss for words, but I am very happy I won’t be flying them much more.

    I voted No. This is just ridiculous.

  • I’m sure that’s what she meant. No showers, no private bathrooms. Every Marriott I’ve stayed in has at least one bathroom.

  • TonyA_says

    What other flights are there from Honolulu to the Marshall Islands?
    Next question, what is a reasonable budget for an airline to pay for a hotel lodging?

  • tio2girl

    Sounds like it’s not so much that she’s dissatisfied with the voucher as the time limit on the voucher. Even $500 each in vouchers is not good compensation if they’re not able to travel in the allotted time frame.

  • SK

    Not sure if things changed, but in the past I’ve found those vouchers to be useless. They could be used only for certain types of fares (not the best available, of course) and I was able to find better fares without the voucher than with the voucher.
    Even if this is not the case, United should offer them such a voucher PER PERSON, not for the entire family.

  • TonyA_says

    This is a very strange case. Did they actually know they were going to be corralled in the ballroom BEFORE they went to the hotel and they agreed to that offer? Otherwise, they could have asked for some voucher and tried to book a room themselves. This really reminds me of Hurricane Katrina.

  • $16635417

    At times, I’ve been unable to find rooms in larger cities than Honolulu.

  • TonyA_says

    I am about to take a trip again to Sapporo. This time I will go with a group of 69 people. I made the same trip this past December and we could not find enough rooms to add another room to our group of 27 people. There was a concert and a cartoon character show in the city. (Note Sapporo hosted a winter Olympics so it is quite big). In fact the first 2 nights we had to spend in Otaru a city north of Sapporo.
    It was OK- one of best sushi ever tasted in my life.

    Also people need to bear in mind airlines will try to book as close to airport as possible. Remember how difficult it was for folks to get a hotel in NYC during Hurricane Sandy? So yes, I agree with you, sometimes it is very difficult to find a room even in the largest of cities.

  • To answer the first question: That’s my question! Did United look for flights on other carriers?

    As for the second question, I don’t travel enough to know that answer, although it would definitely vary from city to city. Here in Phoenix, you can get a clean, safe Comfort Inn room for $130. When we were at a Comfort Inn in Flagstaff, AZ (small city) the price was lower: $99. In New York, that price would be much higher!

  • john4868

    My answer to your second question is … What it takes. I’m homeless for the night because UA decided it wasn’t cost effective to have a local crew source to draw on or over staff their crew in case of illness. They saved money there and took a risk. Now its time to pay on the risk.

  • y_p_w

    I looked it up and United is it to Majuro Airport. Once a day in each direction about six hours nonstop. The alternatives all require 5 travel segments and may take more than a day. It’s also about $1750 round trip nonrefundable.

  • y_p_w

    Final determination is now up to the courts. DOT regs now prohibit airlines from requiring arbitration in a CoC.

  • Dutchess

    While I don’t think this is enough for compensation I do believe after the fact is not the time file a complaint. Believe me, unless there was zero occupancy at every hotel in the city I would not have left that counter until I had a proper hotel room.
    I think since you accepted their “accomodations” then you’re out of luck and should accept the vouchers and move on.
    You aren’t out any money you were just inconvenienced, and how do you monetize that? Had you spent some money for a proper room then you would have a case.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Was the flight from Honolulu to Marshall Islands a stop over? Or is the family from Honolulu?

    From the way it’s written, it sounds like the family is local down there and that they were simply catching the flight out at the airport. If that’s the case, why stay anywhere but your own home?

    If that’s not, and this was a layover in route, then at 5:45am, why were they not back on the phone with their hotel asking to extend their stay another night? Simply take the voucher from the airline and find your own place. Given their contract of Carriage, they could’ve expected the max allowance times 3 given they had 3 members in their party. That should’ve been enough to get a decent hotel room, or extend their current hotel room.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Great question. I could imagine a riot breaking out if they got shuttled over there expecting to have rooms only to be shown community cots.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Why even send them to the hotel? By United’s logic, pointing to the airport floor and telling the people to sleep there would have been “lodging.”

  • y_p_w


    It’s on page 33. A labor shortage could be considered Force Majeure and theoretically not subject to any compensation other than reaccommodating on another flight or issuing a travel certificate. If they accept that it’s a delay within their control they will offer lodging or an allowance for lodging which is United’s decision. When lodging is offered you either take it or leave it. The CoC doesn’t require a payment so the passenger can decide where to stay.

  • Bill___A

    A major place like Honolulu should have spare crew members and lots of hotel rooms. Although I do believe that it is possible for the hotels to be full, I would have definitely checked. If there were in fact no rooms, I would have accepted the ballroom and be done with it. However, United was probably looking for 50 hotel rooms. I would have been looking for one.
    There just isn’t enough information here.

  • TonyA_says

    I’m confused. Aren’t all airline lawsuits (in States) subject to federal preemption anyway?

  • TonyA_says

    Really? The airline CAN simply offer you a refund of your ticket on the spot. Good luck going to the Marshall Islands since I don’t know who else flies there.

    So there must me some limit they use.

  • y_p_w

    They might get first dibs at interpreting the CoC, but if there’s a dispute they can’t just hand off “arbitration” to some firm that they normally do business with and would be keen to getting repeat business.

  • TonyA_says

    That’s one flight a day and only on Mon, Wed and Fri.

    The flight goes HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-… -GUM
    So if you take the reverse direction, you will definitely go island hopping.

  • TonyA_says

    The issue here is whether the DOT will actually do anything.
    IMO, they will do nothing because this is too small to bother them about.

  • TonyA_says

    Why do you assume they had a hotel the previous night to begin with?
    There are flights from the mainland that get to HNL late at night.
    Also just because they are in HNL means they live in that same island.
    They could live in another island in HI.
    So really those points are quite irrelevant.
    The problem is the kind (or quality) of lodging given to ALL the passengers of the flight regardless where they reside.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree. If she booked a proper room and asked UA to reimburse, it would have been a better fight.

  • emanon256

    If I had know, I would have asked for whatever the $ amount was for the region, and gone off on my own.

  • TonyA_says

    Exactly !!! But I have a feeling they were just bused to the location and then all hell broke loose.

  • john4868

    If it was weather, I’d agree but this was something under their control. They made the choice on staffing levels. At that point, they should bear the cost for those decisions. This isn’t an act of god. Its an act of corp efficiency. As someone pointed out, would you like to bet their employees weren’t sleeping on the floor that night?

    And yes. I would pay more for an EU261 like reg in the states.

  • emanon256

    I’ve always found the United vouchers to work quite well. I used to get 5-10 vouchers year. I didn’t even ask, if I got delayed by over an hour, there was one in my e-mail when I landed. If my flight got canceled, I was re booked and got a voucher via email. If the TV didn’t work, the flight handed them out on the plane. I would use them all and they always worked on the lowest fare. If I found a $305 fare, I would apply the $300 voucher and pay $5 for a R/T ticket. When I couldn’t use them for whatever reason, I would give them to a friend or relative. But that was the old United.

    Since the merger, they seem to refuse to give out vouchers at all. So far since the merger several 5+ hour mechanical delays, no certificate, they even refused food vouchers and my e-mail complaining that they refused food vouchers got a rude response about how hard it is to run an airline without even an apology. Mechanical cancellation, re booked the next night (at home so they won’t pay for a hotel since its the first part of a R/T), lost a paid hotel night in Boston because it was after 6pm EST, no voucher. I even e-mailed and asked for a partial refund or voucher because their mechanical cancellation cost me money when I lost the hotel night and was told “We are sorry that you feel that we did not meet your expectation” along with no voucher, and I hardly count what they said as an apology. Their service has gotten so bad and the way they treat their customers has gotten even worse. I used to love United, and now I think they are rock bottom. I can’t wait to never have to fly them again.

  • TonyA_says

    I am curious if anyone here knows. This used to be the Continental (Air Micronesia) Island Hopper. I think it made 5 island hops and then to Guam. My question is was it better during the CO days before the merger?

  • LonnieC

    I’d like to have Chris find out what was done for the first class passengers. And I’d think there should be a separate $250 to $500 voucher for EACH passenger in her group who paid for a ticket.

  • y_p_w

    eBay doesn’t allow for the resale of “lodging” unless it comes from a preapproved and trusted seller. An individual renting out a condo or vacation home must prove ownership before being allowed to list a property for rent. A travel agent must present their credentials.

    They actually take a broad approach to what is considered “lodging”. I’ve personally seen them take off offers to resell campsite reservations. Honestly there’s only one place I know of that sell out to the point that someone would want to resell regularly, and that’s Yosemite. They have an issue with resellers using automated programs to snag reservations faster than a human, and then the sellers resell in violation of the purchase agreement with the feds.

  • TonyA_says

    Too bad there is no first class cabin in this [island hopper 737-800] flight.
    But Coach fare is expensive enough to be treated better than what they got.

  • But several small incidents can be collected to show a trend or pattern of problems. So absolutely report it.

  • TonyA_says

    Not sure about the spare crew since this is an Air Micronesia (Continental) route and aircraft. UA flies 757s and 777s to HNL from the mainland but what they need is a spare 737-800 pilot.

  • TonyA_says

    You know if the DOT or Congress set some STANDARDS to begin with, then it will be a lot easier to do enforcement.

  • y_p_w

    So they can’t just borrow one from Alaska Airlines?

  • Bill___A

    Thanks for the additional information. I just believe some slack should be cut for situations like this but the airline needs to take reasonable efforts. Quite honestly, I would have found a room if I could have and just paid for it. That is in fact what happened at LHR when I had an issue since the rooms the airline was able to get weren’t so comfortable (I went to the hotel next door). The airline rep the next morning said I was right about the beds. Point being, if I have to spend a little money to take care of things properly, I will.

  • bodega3

    If they don’t have one in the islands, they fly one over. I had clients who had to wait for a 747 pilot to be flown in before their plane would take off from HNL to SFO.

  • Joe Farrell

    First Class passengers? You mean the upgraders? No one buys a first class ticket anymore since you can get an automatic upgrade simply by buying a certain class of coach ticket. Even if you got a free first class ticket or an FFB upgrade, everyone is a coach passenger. So in United’s eyes, everyone prob got treated the same except for the ultra elite frequent fliers – THEY got a room and a taxi voucher.

    ‘Lodging’ is not usually defined as communal lodging. Lodging is not a cot in a hotel ballroom . . . it would seem to me that setting up a ballroom with cots would be more of an effort than simply reserving 60 rooms [and prob less – people do travel together].

    The issue here was United saving itself a few grand. Simple as that. If you could find someone to daisy chain representation of all of the people assigned to that ballroom you would a) get hem all a full refund of their ticket price and b) somewhere around $2000 each. .. I’d bring a case on the grounds of unfair trade practice and breach of contract . . . .

  • Joe Farrell


  • Depends on the type of voucher. I don’t have first hand knowledge of this, but I have heard that United especially is notorious for giving out useless vouchers if you volunteer to be bumped from a flight. In other words, they are only applicable to certain fare classes, so you end up paying the same if not more using the voucher than if you just booked the cheap fare on the website.

    On the other hand, customer service vouchers usually work. The only time I’ve gotten one was from AA several months ago when my wife had a bad experience. It was good on any fare, at any time as long as you used it on AA.com (and I did end up using it to effectively get a free ticket for her to L.A. and back). I actually expected AA to tell me to take a hike when I asked for it, but to their credit, they issued the voucher promptly, and didn’t attach any conditions to it to make it worthless.

  • I think Kevin was probably going off of this from the story:

    “We arrived two hours ahead of flight time for check in.”

    That makes me think they must have been staying SOMEWHERE the night before, and then showed up to the airport for their onward flight. Either that, or they had a weird routing that wouldn’t allow through baggage check-in to the final destination.

  • MarkKelling

    I still buy 1st or business tickets. Sometimes.

    A lot of times, I have found discounted domestic 1st seats on United.com that were priced lower than coach, especially the fares needed to automatically qualify for the “free” upgrade. Y class (the one that gives you the automatic upgrade even if you are not a high level frequent flyer) often costs more than discounted 1st.

  • Cybrsk8r

    No. I think the big issue here is that the airline can cancel your flight when a crew member gets sick and expects you to cut them some slack, but if YOU get sick, up to, and including cancer, as we’ve recently read, the airline doesn’t give you the same consideration.

  • Extramail

    Vouchers stink. Period. Give me the money or even a gift card if the airline wants to take the chance some passengers won’t use it.

  • Jumping jack

    But they had 60 cots. Am I wrong that it is a little fishy that an airline can find 60 cots just laying around and that Marriott was happy to let them use its ballroom? All in a few hours time?

  • $16635417

    Not at all fishy. Airports generally have a supply of cots, perhaps United coordinated the effort to supply them to the Marriott, assuming they weren’t already at the Marriott.

    What I find “fishy” is why we aren’t told if any of the 60 had a smartphone, laptop or called someone to check if rooms were available in Honolulu. I would think at least some of the 60 would have verified United’s claim that there were no rooms. If there truly were no rooms…then I think this solution was acceptable under the circumstances.

  • $16635417

    It’s likely the employees were based in Honolulu, If so, they probably simply went home or to their crash pad.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I guarantee you the crew was not corralled in the ballroom.
    I want to know where they stayed!

    …and once again, the airlines are treating its cargo like…well…worse than live cargo.

  • TonyA_says

    If they were domiciled in HNL, they will be sent home.
    I think most of the crew (Continental Micronesia) are probably domiciled in HNL or GUM for these routes.
    Otherwise, they will stay at their regularly contracted hotels FOR THE CREW.

  • TonyA_says

    Considering the time this happened 530AM, it is more likely they were taken (bused) to the ballroom first (and fed) to organize what to do next. I think we are missing a few details in the story.

  • TonyA_says

    Kevin, I re-read the UA COCs. It actually could be worse for the OP.

    F) Amenities for Delayed Passengers

    1) Lodging – UA will provide one night’s lodging, or a maximum allowance for one night’s lodging as established by each location, when a UA flight on which a Passenger is being transported incurs a Schedule Irregularity 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:

    a) To a Passenger whose trip is interrupted at a city which is his/her permanent domicile, origin point, or stopover point,

    c) When such interruption is due to circumstances outside UA’s control.

    4) The sole and exclusive remedy for a passenger who has a claim under this Rule shall be the express amenities provided in this Rule. The passenger shall have no other claims or law or equity for actual, compensatory, or punitive damages. The provision of services in addition to those specifically set forth in this Rule to all or some passengers shall not be construed as a waiver of UA’s rights or an expansion of its obligations. Neither shall any delay on the part of UA in exercising or enforcing its rights under this Rule be construed as a waiver of such rights.

    So if the OPs were from or originated from HNL or stop-overed in HNL, they get nothing.
    Furthermore if you read #4 above, UA has protected itself from a lawsuit regarding the “suitability” of said lodging.

  • TonyA_says

    That isn’t that easy. Take a look at the said flight UA 154.

    #UA 154 HNLGUM- 525A 355P#1 5stops 14hr.30min

    #UA 154 HNL MAJ MO 525A M 834A#1 BBB 738
    2281 5.09 5.09
    MAJ KWA TU 919A 1014A 738
    268 0.45 0.55 6.49
    KWA KSA TU 1055A 1105A SSS 738
    402 0.41 1.10 8.40
    KSA PNI TU 1145A 1245P 738
    344 0.40 1.00 10.20
    PNI TKK TU 126P 140P 738
    TKK GUM TU 221P 355P SSS 738
    635 0.41 1.34 14.30


    Because of the flight duration, they probably have a spare crew on board or they position [doubt it] a reliever midway (maybe Kosrae KSA). If they did not have a spare crew member in HNL, then cancelling the flight and simply flying the same time next day would be a good option. Guam to HNL is about a 7 hour flight so flying own from there might not solve the problem either. And even if they did, the flight schedule from GUM-HNL says it arrives 615PM at HNL earliest. Too much trouble, just cancel and resume the next day.

  • Bill___A

    I see comments like “not going to leave until you have a hotel room”. They are just staff doing what they are told. If they are allowed to give you a room, they will. If they are not, then go and pay for one yourself. If you keep waiting at that counter, other people are going to take up the spare rooms.

    Like everyone, they have supervisors, and I can tell you in some cases, they have stupid supervisors…I can tell that when I hear them talking about things they are told to do sometimes.

    When you budget for travel, set aside some money for the unexpected. You’ll find it a lot better than spending time trying to get vouchers and such.

  • TonyA_says

    Those comments would work if only a few people were being helped at a time.
    But when an airplane full of people need to be booked at hotels, that’s a different story.
    I as said in one of my posts, this happened to me before at JFK.
    To understand this better, allow me to tell my story.

    Cathay Pacific cancelled a flight from JFK-HKG (about a 16 hr. flight). I had connections beyond HKG.
    I got to JFK very early at around 10AM for a 2PM flight.

    Since CX knew the inbound aircraft was diverted to Toronto and was too late to make it to JFK (the crew was already there and would be illegal unless they were sent back to the hotel), they cancelled my flight right after 2PM. Since that was a B777 with hundreds of passengers, they had a zoo in the gate area when they made the announcement.

    They decided they would make us claim our luggage (mind you this is not easy when the terminal was designed for international customs and immigration) and then book us at SEVERAL NEARBY hotels. Yes that is plural since no hotel can take more than 200 passengers in just one fell swoop. It was pandemonium just outside the baggage claim area. The had a megaphone and started calling names. When you were called you moved yourself and your bags to the airport exit and boarded a shuttle to a hotel. You were advised to call Cathay at a certain time to ask what the new status is. In other words, you knew nothing and you simply were to wait at the hotel.

    Since I work near the area (Queens) and knew how lousy the motels were, I politely asked if there was another option other than going to a hotel. I was told I could be given something like $45 in meal coupons (I don’t remember the exact amount except I knew it was good for a 2 small meals). Some older folks decided to wait it out with me. They could not carry their own luggage to and from the motels. I did help them get carts. Some of the other passengers asked me to send them a text message whenever I knew when we were finally going to leave (since I was staying at the airport). To make a long story short, our flight left around 3AM (if I remember correctly).

    Anyway, here are the important things I learned:
    (1) It is hard for an airline to get a lot of rooms immediately.
    (2) Sometimes they have to break the passengers up in groups to go to separate hotels. Note the hotels must have some kind of shuttle to and from the airport otherwise they do not offer a viable solution,
    (3) There is a huge logistical issue that can overwhelm the airport staff immediately. Since they do not want a hundred or more folks gathering in a gate or somewhere in the airport, they need to get you out of there soon while they plan their next move. (This is why I think they took the OP and other passengers first to the Marriott’s ballroom). VERY IMPORTANT: if the airport staff is only subcontracted, you are SOL. These people know nothing. Thank goodness the CX airport staff worked for CX (or their partner).

    (4) For very long flights, airline will cancel quickly to make sure their flight crew does not become illegal. If they do not have local spares, one option is to make them immediately check in a hotel and get the mandatory rest (what is it 8-10 hours ???). This will keep them legal for the next possible flight. In other words, be prepared to be delayed at least another 12 hours since it is the same crew that will fly you.
    (5) Sometimes it is better to wait it out in the airport (especially if hotels in the area are lousy).
    (6) Even if I live 35-40 miles away, it was not possible for me to wait it out at home. Once the airline decides to leave, where would I be? Too far to get back on time.
    (7) Those in FC and BC were accommodated to the next flights, those on cheap ECON tickets had to wait for the same aircraft.
    (8) Calling customer service is useless. Deal with the counter in the airport. They know what is really going on.
    (9) Use the airline lounge even if you have to buy a day pass. It makes the long wait a little more bearable.
    (10) Some airport facilities (like restaurants) are beyond the TSA checking areas so be prepared to back and forth and get screened again and again. Note: we still had our luggage on carts but the restaurants were beyond TSA. So we had to take turns between eating and guarding luggage. I got screened so many times, I actually was able to meet the TSA manager at the terminal. Believe it or not, he was a gentleman.

  • Last summer I flew Calgary to Corfu, then Tallinn to Calgary, with Air Canada. Each direction had two plane changes and every leg that Air Canada was responsible for was either seriously delayed or cancelled (four of the six). I quickly learned to park myself very, very, very close to the gate so that I could read the employee’s facial expressions and body language as they were talking to one another. If things started looking bad I made sure to move even closer (in a non-pushy way). Then, when the final announcement about the cancellation or extreme delay was made, I could be one of the first people in line. I was the fourth person in line when the Montreal to Athens leg was cancelled and it took them an hour to help the three people in front of me. I was placed at the Sheraton. The next day at the airport I talked to people who had waited SIX HOURS in that line and were put at the Comfort Inn, only to arrive, be told there were no rooms, and be sent to an even worse hotel. I also met an elderly man who was a Montreal resident who had been near the end of his line (there was one for locals and one for those from out-of-town) and for some reason Air Canada hadn’t offered him the taxi vouchers that everyone else got. It was sickening. When I came back the Copenhagen – Toronto leg was delayed by about six hours, causing me to arrive around 11:00 pm and miss my connection back to Calgary. I knew what to do- I HUSTLED. I raced through the airport trying to find the Air Canada agents who were supposed to help us. Finally I found them, only to learn that while there was another flight to Calgary that night, I wasn’t on it. Whatever. They put me in a hotel that was really far away AND had me on a 6:00 am flight to Calgary. By the time I’d checked in I might have got an hour’s nap- MAYBE. I went to the Air Canada customer service desk and asked if I could be moved to a later flight so that I could get some sleep. The guy huffed and puffed and started to type stuff. He just typed and typed for TEN MINUTES- there was a big clock, I counted. The line got longer as everyone else from my flight rolled in. The Air Canada guy was silent. After ten minutes I said, “Umm, if this isn’t going to work could I maybe leave so that I can try to get some rest?” He then started yelling at me! He said, “OTHER PEOPLE ARE MISSING THEIR FLIGHTS BECAUSE OF YOU!” What? Then he stands up, walks over to a printer and hands me a ticket for the flight that was leaving an hour later. He didn’t even say anything to me. I’m SO SORRY that I had the foresight to walk quickly through the airport and get to your desk first, poop-head.

    The moral of my story is BE FIRST. Sit near the gate, jump up and be at the front of the line (but don’t budge in front of others) and walk quickly!

  • Don’t forget, the agents in the lounge can (and often will) try to help you with alternate flight arrangements. While not always the case, they often have the same powers as gate agents. I’d gladly pay the $50 for a day pass to skip the 3 hour line.

  • If you’re traveling by yourself and your significant other or family member (or just a buddy that owes you a favor) is at home, tag team with them to help you. My wife was once stranded overnight in Chicago on her way back from India due to bad weather that afternoon in Dallas that had messed up operations real good. It was one of those truly annoying situations where the plane took off, then had to turn around halfway to DFW because they had no place to park the plane, stranding her at O’Hare at 10 P.M. at night. Since I was home, I got her a hotel room and told her to go straight there, while I worked the phones and computer. It took a good 3 hours to finally get something worked out for the next day, but she was grateful for being able to not stand in line and get a good night’s sleep!

    I might also add, if it’s feasible, be flexible on your return destination if you’re delayed, especially if weather has messed up ops at whatever airport you’re headed to (it can, and sometimes does, take a day or more for things to get back to normal). They might tell you there are no flights to DFW until 2 days later, for example, but they might be able to get you something to Austin or Houston. Yes, that’s going to involve a long drive to get back home, but it beats being stuck at the airport for 2 days.

  • bodega3

    Or get your ticket through a travel agency that handled airline ticketing and let them handle this, so you won’t be wasting 3 hours of your time.

  • In my case I had booked through a travel agent. However, it wasn’t until I was in need that I learned she was incompetent. I probably would have done better booking myself on Expedia.

  • TonyA_says

    what do you mean by incompetent? do you expect her to get a waiver code at 10pm and see when she can get you another flight? how can she be better than anyone working the desk at the airport? in my opinion, the system is designed in such a way that the desk agents are the best helpers. i don’t bother calling anyone since they know less.

  • Cydonia

    Did you edit this? Where are 1b, 2 and 3? Having the whole section would help.

  • TonyA_says
  • Aleia11

    Yes, the flight makes 5 stops 2 days a week and 4 stops on the other day. I lived at one of the island stops until 3 months ago and flew the Island Hopper as both a Continental Micronesia and United branded flight over many years. It has always been one of the longest, worst flights anyone can book. At least when it was Continental Micronesia it felt like they cared about the passengers and were willing to work with them, since United has taken over there have been more cancellations and delays and customer service has declined.

  • Aleia11

    There is no spare crew or midway relief. The crew flies this flight all they way through from HNL to GUM or GUM to HNL.

  • TonyA_says

    It is ridiculous our government keeps on approving airline mergers without regard to customer service.

  • TonyA_says
  • Joshua

    If there were 60 passengers who had to be housed, that doesn’t mean United would have needed to book 60 hotel rooms. Some of the people (like the original poster) would have been traveling together and would have shared rooms.

  • bayareascott

    Denied boarding travel credits are credits that can be used on any published fare online.

  • john4868

    @mikegun … If UA has a crew base in Honolulu, what happened to the FA on reserve that’s specifically there for illness issues?

  • Lindabator

    But this doesn’t say WHEN they were travelling, which may explain the lack of hotels in Honolulu. Under the best of circumstances, there are limits here, but during Holidays or a special event – can understand no rooms even being available – so they would have done the best under the circumstances. But would need to know that first.

  • I phoned and said that I was stuck in Montreal and was wondering if I had any options to get to Athens. She was incompetent in that she didn’t get back to me in the next six hours (at which point I phoned, and she said there was nothing she could do…) and then upon arrival in Athens I discovered she’d accidentally cancelled my flight to Corfu.

  • bodega3

    How do you know she did it and not the agent at the airport? I experienced this with AA when my first segment was cancelled due to fog, so they canceled all segments for that travel day, then rebooked, forgetting to put back one segment.

  • It was the message I received from two different desks at the airport. But you’re right… short of me actually not having left Canada in the first place and instead sitting beside her all day between when I booked my flight and when I was scheduled to fly from Athens to Corfu, there’s no way I can know what she did or did not do.

  • bodega3

    TA’s get blamed at the airport when it isn’t their fault. I am not saying she didn’t do the right thing, but I am an agent, I have had agents at the airport screw things up on my own reservations. When I showed up at AA headquarters for 8 days of training and they said they were surprised to see me, it was then that I found out what the first agent had done to my PNR. My training was in the PNR as a tour segment,as that was how it had to be reserved and when the agent cancelled my flights, he cancelled everything for that day. Over the decades, we have learned not to put cars and hotels in the same PNR as the air as things happen, that shouldn’t.
    If you were traveling on a nonrefundable ticket and had checked in, there isn’t a whole lot the agent could have done once the PNR is under airport control. Full coach fares, unrestrictive biz and first class, yes an agent can do something. However, if it was weather related this is a whole other issue.
    I have been at the airport when my 747 plane was damaged upon arrival. Reaccommodating a full 747 takes hours and it is hell being a passenger being send to customer service with hundreds of other passengers. I understand your frustration.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow that’s awful. After being stuck myself in airports, I have come to the conclusion that airline cancellations or delays are better handled by the agents at the airport counters rather than anyone else IF THOSE WORKING BEHIND THEM ARE SEASONED EMPLOYEES. A travel agent is good if you want to change your travel plans such as you want to stay longer or shorter or decide to go somewhere else.

  • $16635417

    Story is 2 months old. I can’t answer that and how is it relevant?
    My comment above yours simply states that if they were based in HNL, there would be no need for a hotel for the crew…or make them sleep on a floor in a ballroom….they may have simply went home (or to their crash pad).

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