Feb. 28, 2014 at 1:37 PM ET
Whether your flight was canceled, you didn’t get the room you paid for, or an airline lost your luggage, we have the solutions to your travel nightmares.
The situation: Your plane has to make an emergency landing due to a mechanical issue and lands in a city that’s not your destination. Instead of finding another plane for the flight, the airline instead asks you to call an 800 number to rebook. What do you do?
The solution: Your rights as a passenger depend upon whether the airline considers this a force majeure event (an act of God that’s out of their control such as weather). If it is a force majeure, then the likelihood of getting money back or anything in return is not very likely. If it isn't, like in this case, your odds of getting some form of compensation are greater. It really depends upon the airline and the agent you speak with. Airline rules can vary and often there isn’t a black and white answer. Some airlines may offer you a refund for the unused portion of your ticket, some might offer you miles, or some might say that they were only contracted to offer you the next available flight (which in this case didn’t happen because it was going to take so long). Go ahead and reach out to the airline and plead your case and depending on who you deal with, you may get a result you’re happy with. Be patient and assertive.
Related: Hotel Travel Tips
The situation: You paid for a hotel room with an ocean view, but you didn’t get it. What to do?
The solution: If you don’t get the room or services you believe you were promised when you booked, speak up right away. Front desk managers are trained to handle these situations, and they want to work with the customer to bring about a resolution. If they aren't giving you the answer you like, take it to the next level to the general manager. When you book a room and have an expectation of a certain view or other amenities such as free breakfast, or other things like free Wi-Fi, be sure to have it in writing from the hotel. If it isn’t clear in your reservation, call or email to clarify. If you’ve asked for a specific room type, or a view, and you didn’t get it — show the front desk manager what you’ve booked and ask them to fix it. Be sure to take photos so you have proof of whatever it is about your room that wasn’t what you expected.
The situation: Do travelers who purchase tickets directly from airlines (instead of a third-party site, like Expedia) get priority when rebooking a canceled flight?
The solution: We reached out to two experts, Brian Kelly from thepointsguy.com and George Hobica from airfarewatchdog.com. They both said that while airline employees know how you booked your ticket, they don't penalize passengers if the ticket wasn't bought directly from the airline. They do give rebooking preference based on the customer's frequent flier or elite status and price of the fare. Someone with upper tier status who paid $500 would theoretically be rebooked before another passenger who paid $129 with lower or no status.
The situation: You prepay for a hotel, and when you check-in at 2 a.m. the hotel informs you that the hotel is oversold and there is no room for you. What do you do?
The solution: When a hotel is oversold, they will typically work to get you a room at another property of equal or lesser value. If this happens to you, ask for your first night (at least) for free if you are moved to another hotel. You may also get restaurant or spa credits. Even if you’ve prepaid, it can't hurt to ask for a refund. Hotels have their own policies about cancellations and you need to read the fine print when booking, especially if you’re putting your money up front. Always call the night before to confirm your reservation, and if you’re concerned your hotel might be overbooked, check in early (the last guest typically loses out). If you aren’t satisfied with the new hotel, try a last-minute hotel-booking app like HotelTonight. They can find you great day-of hotel deals — if you find something you like better than their offer, ask the hotel to cover the choice you found instead.
The situation: What do you do if an airline loses your luggage?
The solution: The good news is, this doesn’t happen very often. According to the Department of Transportation, for all of last year, airlines posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.22 per 1,000 passengers. That includes delays — so the bag might not be lost for good. If this does happen, get on the phone right away with the airline and file a claim (sending an email helps, too). The DOT mandates that customers are entitled up to $3,300 for all reasonable, actual, and verifiable expenses related to baggage loss or delay. There are a few couple things you can do in advance to make sure this doesn’t happen: Clearly label your bag inside and out. Make your bag distinctive. Travel with a brightly colored bag and fly non-stop.
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