Porter Airlines offered me two “free” nights at a hotel, but I just wanted to go home

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By Christopher Elliott

After Evelyn Morton’s Porter Airlines flight from Toronto to Washington, D.C., is canceled, the airline offers to put her in a hotel for two days. She has a better idea, but will Porter go for it?

Question

I recently was scheduled to fly from Toronto to Washington, D.C., on Porter Airlines. The flight was canceled when I arrived at the airport.  Porter proposed rescheduling me on a flight two days later. A representative said they would put me up in a hotel for two nights and provide meal vouchers.

But I needed to be in Washington before that. The counter agent implied that I would be reimbursed if I bought a ticket on another airline, so I did.  I arranged for Porter to fly me to Boston and then I took a Southwest Airlines flight to Baltimore for $167.

The Southwest flight was my only expense.  I believe I should be reimbursed, since it actually cost the airline less than two nights at a hotel, meals and transportation to and from the airport.  Porter does not respond to my requests and so I am turning to you. Can you help? — Evelyn Morton, Potomac, Md.

Answer

If a Porter Airlines representative promised you a refund for your flight back to Baltimore, the airline should have forked it over. But if it only implied it would cover your expenses, that’s another matter.

What’s Porter required to do? Under its conditions of carriage — the legal agreement between you and the airline — nothing, really. Section 8 of the contract only says the carrier will undertake “its best efforts” to carry you and your baggage “with reasonable dispatch.”

“Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract,” it adds. “Schedules are subject to change without notice.”

Typically, an airline will offer to pay for your hotel, meals and transportation expenses when a flight is canceled. But a flight on a different carrier? You’d need to get a promise like that in writing, or, better yet, persuade the airline to pay it on the spot. Airlines can rebook you on another airline — it’s called “endorsing” your ticket. But there’s no rule that an airline must endorse your ticket when a flight is canceled.

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Your math seemed to make sense. Wouldn’t it cost Porter more for a hotel and meals than the Southwest flight? Maybe, maybe not. Airlines negotiate special contracts with hotels, so it might have cost Porter less to keep you in a hotel than to pay for a flight on another airline.

I list the executive contacts for Porter Airlines on my consumer advocacy website. You could have reached out to them if the airline continued to ignore you. (Here is our guide on how to resolve your consumer problem).

But that proved unnecessary. My advocacy team and I contacted Porter on your behalf and it agreed with your reasoning. It refunded the $167 for your flight.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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