Should US Airways compensate me for a lodging error?

Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com
Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com
Ken Middleton and his girlfriend were flying back to the mainland after enjoying a vacation in Hawaii. At least, they were supposed to be. But their US Airways flight was canceled because of a mechanical problem and they were rebooked on a flight 24 hours later.

Ah, 24 extra hours in Hawaii. What to do? I can think of a few things.

Well, US Airways describes what it should do in its contract of carriage, the legal agreement between Middleton and the carrier.

Oh wait, it’s not there! Looks like, for our convenience, they moved it to their customer commitment, which is a non-binding promise. Here it is:

When a US Airways flight on which the customer is being transported is canceled or causes a missed connection due to reasons within the control of US Airways, creating an overnight stay for the customer, US Airways will provide one night’s lodging. US Airways will pay for:

Hotel room (US Airways will not cover: room service, alcohol, or movies, laundry or other hotel services);

Ground transportation (if not provided by the hotel);

Passengers without baggage will be reimbursed upon presentation of receipts for reasonable incidentals such as toiletries needed until they are reunited with their baggage.

So as I read this, US Airways wasn’t legally required to do a thing for him. (Remember, the promise of a hotel is not written into its contract, but its service pledge.) But it did.

“We were told if we could find a hotel room, we would be reimbursed for the cost through their voucher program,” he says.

Most airlines will issue a voucher to cover the full amount of the hotel and offer a van to a hotel in Waikiki. That’s what happened to me a few years ago when my American Airlines flight burst into flames somewhere over Maui.

“We found a room at $386 per night,” says Middleton. “There was a conference in Honolulu, and nothing else was available. When I requested a refund from US Airways, however, they would only reimburse me $75 for my stay.”

He appealed to US Airways. Here’s its response:

I truly appreciated the opportunity in speaking with you and as stated, I have passed along your desire to speak with a supervisor and they will review the case and if warranted make a phone call, but we cannot guarantee that they will be making a call.

After thorough I have not found any reason to change the original decision and am unable to honor your request to increase in your hotel reimbursement amount.

Mr. Middleton, I’m sorry that we couldn’t reach an amicable resolution to the situation.

Hmm. Did our good friends at US Airways skip a few English classes? Maybe.

In my experience, an airline will offer a voucher for an available hotel, which covers all of your lodging expenses. But who stays in Honolulu for $75 a night? You can’t even find a couch to surf on for that much.

Middleton had to pay $311 because of US Airways’ mechanical delay, and that’s wrong.

At the same time, the way I read the airline’s customer “commitment,” it didn’t really have to do anything to help a stranded passenger. Asking the airline to do something it isn’t required to isn’t the strongest argument, from a consumer advocacy point of view. But I’m not afraid to try.

Should I mediate Ken Middleton's case with US Airways?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Cybrsk8r

    I got stranded at O’hare by United. They didn’t do squat. Basically told us we were on our own.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    A good question. However, jurisdiction is not limited to where the incident occurred. It can be where the defendant is headquartered, where the defendant carries on most of its business, where the contract was entered into (presumably the home states), etc.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I think that Chris should mediate to find out what took place. To me, either the US Airways gate agent screwed up or the OP screwed up. I have been on flights that have been oversold, cancelled for mechanical problems and etc. Most of these flights have been on America WestUS Airways since I live in Phoenix and I have selected them as my primary airline. They get out the vouchers (taxi, food and hotel) and handed them out. I have encountered this same procedure on Air Canada, Continental and Delta.

    The airlines have contracted prices with the hotels. I used to fly through Houston on Continental once a month for eight years and the first flight on my return flight to PHX via IAH was always late leaving due to traffic on the east coast and/or weather; therefore, I usually arrived late in IAH for my connecting flight to PHX. On several occasions, I missed my flight and had to fly back the next morning. Continental gave me a sheet with the various codes to use at the local airport hotels. For example, it was something like $ 45 to $ 65 for a room at the Marriott hotel that is connected to IAH.

    America West was famous for misleading their passengers. One of their tactics is to get people to find alternative transportation to get out of paying for a hotel room. My wife and I were coming back from Las Vegas from a trade show that I was attending. Our 4:00 PM flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems. The Gate Agent made an announcement stating that there were no hotel rooms due to the conventions that were going on; therefore, you were on your own for your accommodations if the plane couldn’t be fixed. At 6:30 PM, I saw on the website that the flight was cancelled. I asked the gate agent about it and they said that the website was incorrect. They said that the part was being flown in from PHX and etc. At 11:30 PM, they announced that the flight was cancelled and they give hoteltaxifood vouchers to the remaining 8 or 10 passengers that were left (it was a 757) and we were given a room at an extended stay property.

  • omgstfualready

    It was basically my POV when I read the 100th help me my own stupidity cost me money and I now I need help. THere is so much Chris can do and shouldn’t be bogged down chasing around for people that needed to learn a lesson…..I was a wee bit surprised it was allowed…..shhhhhh….our secret…..

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Response from US Airways was probably written by some guy in India named “Robert.”

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    And you were surprised by United?
    Hard chairs and probably stale crackers from a vending machine.

  • teddybeargraham

    i would also disagree, I have been to las vegas many times, many many times staying very cheaply and then one time I booked during the aarp convention. the same hotel that was 19 dollars 3 weekends before was 199 a night.. unfortunately you can’t reschedule someone else’s bachelor party.

    it is possible that the day that you stayed it was cheaper, but prices vary… and by the way the 199 dollar hotel that was 19 before that was a fleabag and it was not clean. It did have a bed, but I slept in the my clothes to not touch the sheets.

  • Bill___A

    If it is a mechanical delay, they should pay for the room.

  • scapel

    I thought airlines told you what hotel to go to and booked you there themselves. They gave you a meal voucher. They therefore controlled the amount of the fee for the night.

  • Lindabator

    Yeah, that’s the norm – because they are sending you to the hotels they have pre-arranged set pricing for. This sounds a bit off.

  • Travelnut

    The insurance professional organization I belong to meets in a different destination every year. This year it’s New Orleans; in 2016 it’s Honolulu. All I need to do for my company to send me is be on a national committee.

  • Lindabator

    But they don’t do that – if you need a lodging voucher, that is what you get. I think there was a disconnect in this story.

  • Lindabator

    Yeah – something is way off here – the airline would send you to the hotel with a voucher, not expect YOU to choose a hotel, and then reimburse you. Something here is way off.

  • Lindabator

    I know. Something is off here – I’d love to know the whole story!

  • Lindabator

    If the cause is due to weather, you actually DON’T get anything. Most folks don’t realize that, though.

  • Lindabator

    True – which is why this story makes no sense – would love to know the truth.

  • davidglass

    How exactly was the OP stupid? They say they were told by an agent of the airline to go to a hotel, find a room in pricey Honolulu, and they would be reimbursed by the airline. “We were told if we could find a hotel room, we would be reimbursed for the cost through their voucher program,” he says.

    OP should sue US Airways in small-claims court. Airlines are great to sue because the big ones have a presence in most states, so you don’t have to go very far to have your day in court. If the airline doesn’t show up, OP takes his default judgment to the local sheriff and the sheriff seizes assets to pay the judgment. Nice thing about airlines is they have a lot of physical assets which can easily be sold to pay the Plaintiff. I guarantee US Airways will pay up in the face of having its assets seized.

    If the airline does show up, odds are OP wins on the merits and the judge orders the airline to pay.

  • bodega3

    It appears that there was a confusion on the OP’s part. You get the voucher BEFORE going to the hotel, not after. The OP many have found a hotel room, but did they check with the carrier for the voucher before heading to the hotel? Something is missing in this story.

  • Cybrsk8r

    UScareways! I love it. I avoid that airline like the plague.

  • justmeeeee

    So, a company should be free to make any bogus promises it wants in order to get business, but should also be free to renege on those promises when called to account? If this is how US Airways wants to operate, it should be widely publicized that their word is never to be trusted.

  • bodega3

    Don’t you have to file a small claims in the county where the business has it’s main headquarters? If you don’t live in the area, you have the added expense of getting there, parking, possible hotel stay and meals.

  • MO22

    There isn’t enough information given here to make a solid opinion. First question that comes to mind is, simply, what was the NAME of the hotel that had the coveted last room left on the island for almost $400 a night? That alone could help me form an opinion as to whether the airline is really to blame or not… If you tell me it was Halekulani (5*) or something similar.. please.