Is this passenger entitled to a hotel reimbursement from American Airlines?

When John Thompson lands in Washington D.C., he discovers that the last connecting flight to Boston has left without him. An American Airlines representative assures him not to worry — he will be put on a flight the next morning and his hotel will be covered for the night. So why is his request for reimbursement rejected?

Question: I was traveling on American Airlines from Las Vegas to Boston with a connection at Washington National. There was a 15-minute delay in Las Vegas because the inbound plane was delayed.

During the flight the flight attendant told us we had plenty of time to make the connection from Washington to Boston. But on arrival, the plane stopped on the taxiway and the pilot informed us that there was no gate available for our plane. The flight attendant said she would work to make sure I along with two other passengers would make the Boston flight. We didn’t.

When I got off the plane, I was sent to a gate agent named Andrea who was working to help passengers who had missed connections. She put me on a flight the next day. But I also checked to see if I was eligible for a hotel voucher. She said all the vouchers were sold out. She said she had permission to give me a $125 credit toward a room. She said it would be noted in my file and I just needed to send in my hotel receipt through the American Airlines website. After I got home and began searching the site, I could find nowhere that would allow me to request the credit and send a copy of the hotel receipt in order to get the $125 credit. So I attached my hotel receipt and sent my request to an AA executive.

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I received an email back from American which said my flight was delayed due to weather so I would not receive reimbursement. Could you ask American Airlines to reimburse me for my hotel, as they promised? — John Thompson, Chelmsford, Mass.

Answer: I agree with your premise that if American Airlines promised you that your hotel would be reimbursed for the night, it should provide you with that compensation. However, there were several stumbling blocks on your road to resolution.

First, despite your assertion that this missed flight was not due to the weather, it was.

We frequently receive complaints from travelers who tell us about flights that were delayed when the sky was clear and no bad weather in sight.

But the current state of the sky above your head is not the measure of whether your flight is being delayed by the weather. Bad weather in one region can have a nationwide ripple effect.

And unfortunately for air travelers in the United States, airlines are not required to compensate passengers for flight delays and cancellations that are the result of the weather and/or Air Traffic Control orders.

Your flight was delayed because of the late arrival of the aircraft on an incoming flight. That flight’s delay was the result of bad weather. Which means that your flight was delayed because of that same weather. And that delay caused you to miss your connection.

The rejection of your request for hotel reimbursement was based on that fact.

Taking a look at American Airlines’ contract of carriage, you can see that Americans’ policy, which is in line with those of all other airlines operating in the United States, makes it clear that:

American may, in the event of a force majeure event, without notice, cancel, terminate, divert, postpone or delay any flight or the right of carriage or reservation of traffic accommodations without liability except to issue an involuntary refund. The involuntary refund will be made in the original form of payment in accordance with involuntary refund rules for any unused portion of the ticket. American will also reserve the right to determine if any departure or landing should be made without any liability except the aforementioned involuntary refund.

A force majeure event is something that is considered beyond the airline’s control — such as the weather.

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But your story took a different turn when you met up with Andrea, a sympathetic American Airlines representative. She told you that you could receive reimbursement for up to $125 for your hotel stay that night.

The problem was that she failed to document her atypical offer in your record.

In the future if an airline representative offers you some extra amenity, make sure to get it in writing.

I reached out to the airline on your behalf and submitted your hotel receipts. Our executive contact looked at your record and noted that your delays were the result of Air Traffic Control orders.

But because Andrea had extended this offer, he agreed to issue you the $125.

You are pleased with this outcome, and so are we.

Almost daily we receive requests for help from travelers who want to be reimbursed for their extra expenses, missed events, disrupted plans and distress because of airline delays and cancellations.

In these situations, the airlines all have their contract of carriage on their side. Their responsibility is to refund or reroute, not reimburse. So if you are offered something extra for your troubles — get it in writing. Because if you don’t, you may be out of luck.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at

  • Sherry

    I know that this is not relevant to the discussion at hand, but could someone help me out? I have an issue that I was going to post about in the forums, but it says that I am banned.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Since it was the last flight from Washington to Boston, why didn’t AA held the flight? I have been on many flights over the years where they held the flight due to connecting passengers being late on other incoming flight and some of these flights were midday and not even close to being the last flight of the day.

    I know that there are flight crew hours restrictions and/or maybe the plane has another flight to fly from the desitintation and/or passengers may have connecting flights at the desiination and/or etc.

  • Alan Gore

    The delay cause is effectively “weather” whenever the airline says it is, giving them an automatic out. And any delay on the runway is an ATC problem, which even European carriers get t use as an out. You will be compensated if they deign to compensate; otherwise, you’re screwed.

  • Bill___A

    You know, this just doesn’t happen to me very much to where it is a big concern. Which is why weather delays don’t get me too excited. What I don’t like is these 24 or 48 hour cancellation policies that certain hotel chains have which can cause you to be charged at your destination when your plane doesn’t arrive. If and when that happens, I expect to be talking to the hotel, not the airline. I’m glad American helped this person out, but their personnel should give out some sort of written agreement if they are going to pay for something.

  • James

    The plane waited on the taxiway waiting for an open gste — and that is a weather delay because a flight earlier was delayed.

    Airline logic.

  • jim6555

    It could be that by holding the flight, the number of hours that crew could legally work would time out. If another crew could not be found, it would mean that an entire plane load of passengers would be forced to spend the night in Washington.

  • KennyG

    Possibly, since they were delayed in arriving due to the weather delay from their origination point, the gate that would have been available at their arrival was taken by another flight that arrived on a timely basis. But for the weather that delayed their takeoff and subsequent arrival, there would have been a gate available, and they would have made their connecting flight.

    Normal logic.

  • cscasi

    How can that be? Here you are.

  • The Original Joe S

    Vouchers were SOLD OUT? Add it to the list:

    I’m from the gubmint, and I’m here to help you.
    Gee, I’m glad to see you!
    Check is in the mail.
    I’ll respect you in the morning.
    This Mercedes is paid for.
    My tubes were tied.
    I promise I won’t……..

  • The Original Joe S

    Well, at LEAST it ain’t DETROIT! Ha ha ha!
    The Washeytin airports are in Virginia, where they roll up the sidewalks early. Go to sleep now, and sweet dreams!

  • The Original Joe S

    make a video of the person telling you it, and get the person’s name and say the date / time / place on the video……..

  • The Original Joe S

    so, altho the plane was coming and would arrive w/in 15 min of schedule, the put another plane, which didn’t belong, into the gate?

  • KennyG

    Perhaps a better plan of action might be to email the mods to find out why you are banned from the forums. I doubt any of the posters here would have that information for you.

  • Annie M

    The trouble here is another employee who gave this consumer wrong information. When will they teach these people to keep their mouths shut
    if they are giving out wrong information? Obviously Andrea didn’t know why his flight was delayed.

    Did he have travel insurance? Many policies will pay for an overnight hotel when something like this happens- even weather delays.

    And he also might not have a problem if he had more time in between connections. Everyone should realistically look at short connections because all it takes is something like this and you’ll miss your flight.

  • jsn55

    This is the BEST yet, Michelle: “But the current state of the sky above your head is not the measure of whether your flight is being delayed by the weather.” People just don’t seem to grasp the interlocking flights going every day, hour after hour. Sunny in Omaha, thunderstorms in Fort Lauderdale.

    I’m glad for an opportunity to remind everyone of the #1 rule dealing with an airline: an agent will tell you anything to get you to move on. Sad but true.

  • jsn55

    Sherry, you have posted on the forums, I just replied to your situation. So you’re not banned, no matter what anyone tells you! People who do bad things are banned … you only want to assist your parents. As far as I know, you’re as nice as can be.

  • jsn55

    A thousand million reasons that flights aren’t held. The reasons are way beyond our pay grades.

  • jsn55

    You are so right, Bill, and I am glad to see (at least at United) that employees are being empowered to actually help passengers, not just tell them something to get them to go away.

  • jsn55

    Well, having no open gate is surely not the airline’s fault, is it?

  • PsyGuy

    How would you get this in writing. The “writing” the airlines has is a voucher, gate agents aren’t allowed to write checks or IOU’s. What the PAX should have done is take out their phone and record the conversation.

  • PsyGuy

    The forum is not the comment section (here).

  • PsyGuy

    They needed the gate.

  • PsyGuy

    Agree 3 PAX is nothing.

  • PsyGuy

    You realize the gate agent probably just made the whole thing up to get rid of the PAX, right.

  • PsyGuy

    What did you expect them to do open the cabin doors and let people jump, or rollup one of those stairways?

  • PsyGuy

    Then what happens is PAX get frustrated and belligerent. It’s easier to say what the PAX wants to hear and cheaper for the airline not to pay.

  • PsyGuy


  • Lindabator

    the flight was delayed coming in, so the gate was no longer available, and thy had to find a new one – you cannot expect slots to remain open indefinately

  • Lindabator

    correct – ATC will have the planes off the tarmac and gated ASAP – and no open gates leaving other planes to wait – they move as quickly as possible, tho

  • Sue Smith

    If one flight is delayed due to the weather, it can effect flights all over the country. Therefore, with this logic, any one flight can be delayed and you can trace it back to another flight hundreds of miles away. With the airlines doing the math, no one will ever get reimbursed. It’s the Kevin Bacon theory.

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