Download the app
When you get wind of a long delay or cancellation, your first move should be to speak with someone — either in person, at the gate or on the phone. But phone waits can be epic when bad weather strikes an entire geographic region, as can in-person lines. While it isn’t foolproof, it’s never a bad idea to download the app of the carrier you’re traveling with. You can check departure statuses and sometimes easily change itineraries within the app itself.
Certain credit cards offer protection
Some credit cards, like Chase Sapphire Reserve and the United Explorer Card, offer a trip-delay benefit for common carrier travel (this would exclude things like taxi, commuter rail, and rental vehicle travel) purchased through the card. The delay threshold, which is 12 hours for some cards and six for others, will provide reimbursement up to $500 for reasonable expenses incurred during a delay. This includes lodging, food, transportation and other necessities. It’s worth noting that some high-end travel cards, like American Express Platinum, do not offer this benefit.
If filing a claim, prepare for a slog
For my Newark cancellation, I filed a claim online through Chase Card Benefit Services (you can also begin your claim over the phone), which is administered by Allianz Global Assistance. You’ll need a considerable amount of information to collect on your claim, including proof of round-trip travel, your old itinerary, your new itinerary, credit card statements and receipts for expenses incurred. Keep itemized receipts for meals and don’t expect to be reimbursed for alcohol or gratuities. There’s no reason not to take yourself out to a nice meal, however: After my flight cancellation, I had a somewhat un-frugal late lunch at Balthazar that ran about $50 before tax and tip.
Sending credit card statements is an annoyance, as they sometimes won’t post for weeks after you’ve made a purchase. Some people put off filing a claim until their statements post and forget to follow through — which is exactly what insurance companies bank on. Don’t make that mistake: You can file your claim immediately, even if you don’t have all the supporting documents. You can submit them later, provided it’s in within the required time frame (in Chase’s case, 100 days).
You’ll need a statement from your common carrier stating the reason for the delay — again, not the most convenient thing to obtain. Write the airline’s customer service email address to request verification of why your flight was delayed or canceled. It may take one or two follow-up emails, but they should oblige.
Finally, persistence is the key with collecting on insurance claims. Photograph receipts and screenshot boarding passes. My claim, which was filed weeks ago with over a dozen attachments, still shows as “pending” in their system. I’ve called several times to follow up, and if I don’t hear back by the end of the week, I’ll call again.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve
Think you deserve compensation for something? Ask for it. When a mechanical issue forced an overnight delay on a recent flight to Los Angeles, I went to the podium and requested hotel and food vouchers. I received a $109 hotel voucher as well as three $20 food vouchers, redeemable within the airport and at the Holiday Inn Express where I ended up staying. This wouldn’t have happened had I not spoken to a gate agent and asked. The point is: While you may get turned down, you should always (politely) ask for what you think you deserve.