Shouldn’t Hawaiian Airlines reimburse me for all of my expenses?

After Hawaiian Airlines canceled their flight, Victoria Wasserman and her family spent over $500 for food and hotel accommodations. Wasserman sought full reimbursement from Hawaiian Airlines, but it would pay only half of the cost.

Why won’t Hawaiian Airlines cover all of Wasserman’s costs?

The Wassermans had used HawaiianMiles to book their round-trip flights from San Francisco to Maui. After boarding the plane in Maui for return to San Francisco, and waiting on board for about an hour, Hawaiian Airlines removed the passengers because of mechanical issues. After waiting at the airport for nine hours, the Wassermans’ flight was canceled.

Hawaiian Airlines rebooked Wasserman and her family on a flight leaving from Honolulu the following day. Wasserman and her family flew to Honolulu and were given a hotel voucher for the night.

Upon arrival at the Honolulu hotel, the Best Western Plaza, Wasserman was told that “because of the late hour, the only rooms available had one bed.” There were three members in their party traveling, and one bed wasn’t an acceptable accommodation. The Wassermans checked themselves into a Hilton that had suitable accommodations, at a cost of $260.

The Wassermans’ expenses for food and lodging were $585. They submitted their receipts to Hawaiian Airlines, but it would only reimburse them $280. The Wassermans were told Hawaiian Airlines’ guidelines limited reimbursement to $130 for a hotel and $50 per person for food. Although Hawaiian Airlines’ rules for delays and cancellations for confirmed passengers set forth its policies for cancelled or delayed flights, the rules do not specify a monetary limit for lodging or meals.

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The rules provide:

The carrier will assume the expenses outlined below for all passengers incurred as a result of cancellation, delay or interruption of any flight on which a passenger holds confirmed reservations.

Hotel Rooms – HA will provide one-night’s lodging at accommodation selected by HA when a passenger’s delay is expected to exceed 4 hours and extend into the period 10:00 pm through 6:00 am, and no scheduled alternate transportation is available to the passenger’s destination or stopover point.

Meals – Passengers will be furnished one meal voucher if the delay will extend beyond the four (4) hours.

Hawaiian Airlines’ own guidelines state that it will cover these expenses for “all passengers.” Yet, in Wasserman’s case it clearly considered the three Wassermans as one passenger for lodging purposes. By its own rules, Hawaiian Airlines could have been obligated to reimburse each Wasserman for his or her own hotel room. And, it seems that the Wassermans did Hawaiian Airlines a favor when they spent the mysterious hotel “guideline” limit for two passengers, to accommodate three. But, Hawaiian Airlines wasn’t going to reimburse Wasserman any more than $260.

In addition to being reimbursed for their hotel and food expenses, the Wassermans wanted their miles returned to their Hawaiian Miles accounts.

Wasserman could have posted a query to our help forums which are staffed by industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates may have had helpful suggestions for her.

Wasserman contacted Hawaiian Airlines customer service, and it ignored her. Our advocates tried contacting Hawaiian Airlines on the Wassermans’ behalf, and it ignored us too. Then, she sent Hawaiian Airlines executives a letter and complained about the lack of response and the reimbursement amount. We list executive contact information for companies on our website company contacts.

After Wasserman escalated her complaint by sending a letter to a company executive, Hawaiian Airlines replied. In addition to the $260 reimbursement, it deposited 1,500 miles in each of the Wassermans’ Hawaiian Miles accounts, and issued $300 in future travel vouchers for each of them.

Hawaiian Airlines wouldn’t reimburse more than $260 of the $585 the Wassermans requested, but in the end, it did compensate them.

Did Hawaiian Airlines adequately compensate the Wassermans?

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Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight.

  • Altosk

    Back when I was but a young bird, I was stranded at LGA over Thanksgiving due to mechanical problems, crew delays…everything BUT weather. The Delta staff lined us all up by “need” and began issuing vouchers. As a young college student, I was sent with other travelers in the same demographic to the back of the line. By the time we were at the counter “all the hotel rooms were gone” we were told and that we would have to spend the night in the terminal.

    That was the last time I ever flew Delta.

  • Rebecca

    I’m confused. This implies the OP spent $325 on food:

    $585 (total requested) – $260 (hotel cost) = $325

    Unless I’m missing something, that seems really excessive. The amount is described as food and lodging. Which leaves $325 for dinner and breakfast. I know Hawaii is expensive, but that’s a lot. I actually find it unreasonable. They received $280, which is only $20 for food. I agree $20 isn’t going to feed 3 people, I also think $325 is ridiculously excessive.

  • Bill___A

    The airline screwed up when they gave them a hotel room for one. That made a bunch of work for the OP. The airline should pay for the room, transportation to the other hotel and reasonable food expense.

  • greg watson

    Let me see. The OP wanted an extra $325 to be reimbursed, but received 3,000 miles, & either $600 or $900 ($300 vouchers each) in vouchers. As their food cost seemed really excessive, I think that they did just fine.

  • James

    I would guess their accommodation required two rooms at $260 each, leaving $65 for food for three.

    In which case, the original poster was asking for more than the policy would reimburse for hotel, and less for food.

    (But the low limit on hotel costs seems unfair when the cheap accommodation is fully booked.)

  • vmacd

    They should have been reimbursed 2 rooms x $130 = $260 (I’m assuming one married couple and grown daughter or son, airline saves on extra room because of married couple) plus $50 x 3 = $150 for meals.

    $260 + $150 = $410. I don’t know how the airline arrived at $280 and points and vouchers don’t cost them anything. The OP got ripped off.

  • AAGK

    I dislike Hawaiian Air and have sought tons of advice on dealing with it in the forums. I’m confuse about the reimbursement scheme. I get the minimums, but isn’t that per pax? If 2 couple booked on the same res, they aren’t the expected to put 4 people in the bed or share a room, right? Shouldn’t each ticket qualify for the compensation? I would be happy just the room was covered. I don’t worry about the food part but 50×3 is $150- this group could eat for that, no?

  • AAGK

    I’m confused too. Is the reimbursement per pax or for all 3 of them. That’s not fair but an airline shouldn’t have to go out of pocket for much more than fast food level. $50 seems generous. While that’s less than the cost of banana bread ingredients in NY, expecting an airline to pay $375 seems stilly and excessive.

  • James

    an airline shouldn’t have to go out of pocket for much more than fast food level.


    The airline should provide enough for a healthy meal at prices comparable to those charged at airport restaurants.

  • Rebecca

    But they had a voucher for 1 room. I thought of this too. If that was the case, they could have used the voucher for 1 room and paid for the other. So unless there’s something missing, I’m not understanding.

  • Rebecca

    Healthy is a relative term for some people. I can’t understand folks that spend $13 on a smoothie, for example. That wouldn’t be reasonable. But buying yogurt and fresh fruit cups, for example, would be perfectly reasonable. You can get that at the gas station for $3/person. This is HI, so I’ll say $5.

  • michael anthony

    Carriers should be required to meet the government set per diem for hotel and food expenses. It eliminates the guess work and all paxs are treated the same.

  • JewelEyed

    I’m fairly certain that the voucher was for the one hotel only. They opted not to stay there and went elsewhere. That would explain why the voucher ended up being useless.

  • MarkKelling

    I believe they wanted a single room that would allow all 3 of them to stay together. We are not told exactly what the “family” consisted of, but it is not unreasonable for it to be husband wife and a child too young to leave in a room alone but too old to be expected to sleep in the bed with the parents.

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t believe the airline specified it was a room for one. The HOTEL stated (according to the article) they had nothing available to accommodate the family of 3 together, not nothing the voucher would cover.

  • cscasi

    Reading the above, it only indicates that the Wassermans spent $260; “The Wassermans checked themselves into a Hilton that had suitable accommodations, at a cost of $260.” The room could have had 2 double or queen beds and perhaps a rollawat could have been brought in, if necessary.

  • Lindabator

    these per diems are in line with government – she just wanted to stay at a hotel NOT on the voucher program, and the cost was too high

  • AAGK

    I consider that fast food so we are saying the same thing. I didn’t mean McDonald’s. Also, one eats at home too I assume. In NY, buying food to cook at home costs money as well.

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