Understandably, airlines aren’t in a hurry to tell you, but there are many times when we’re eligible to receive expense vouchers from them. The most common travel vouchers are meal vouchers, transportation vouchers, and hotel vouchers.
Many airlines offer a meal voucher if your flight is delayed between 3 to 4 hours and if that delay is ‘within the airline’s control’. They won’t issue vouchers if the delay is due to a weather occurrence. Air Canada provides a meal voucher after 4 hours.
British Airways doesn’t stipulate a timespan, but states, “We will consider reimbursing reasonable expenses for meals and refreshments.”
Some airlines, for instance, American Air, are not as clear about travel vouchers. AA’s site states, “If the delay is beyond our control, you’re responsible to pay for your hotel, meals and other expenses.” However, if the delay is within their control, they don’t mention the offer of meal vouchers. This leads me to believe that the vouchers are available if you ask.
These timeframes are approximate though and you may even be able to receive a food voucher if your trip is delayed less than the number of hours quoted. I was recently on an Air Canada flight that was delayed 30 minutes which resulted in missing my connecting flight. AC rescheduled me on another flight 3 hours later. To their credit, Air Canada wasn’t a stickler about the 4-hour regulation. They were happy to offer a $15 food voucher to each of us for our 3-hour wait. Others on the same original flight experienced only a 2-hour delay but still, AC provided them the voucher. Thanks, Air Canada!
Overnight Expense Vouchers
Overnight or hotel expense vouchers are also available for delayed flyers.
With Air Canada, for delays of more than 8 hours and when the delay is within their control, you are eligible for all three: meal vouchers, hotel vouchers, and transportation to and from the hotel. If the delay is outside the airline’s control (eg, due to weather), they might refer you to an affiliate hotel where you can receive a reduced rate. In some cases, when the delay is an extended one, perhaps due to a travel alert, airlines may offer alternate transportation via train or bus.
American Air is specific: “If the delay is our fault or you’re diverted to another city, and we don’t board before 11:59 p.m. local time on your scheduled arrival day, we’ll arrange an overnight stay or cover the cost of an approved hotel, if available.”
British Air again uses the “reasonable expenses” phrase offering ‘reasonable’ reimbursement for hotel accommodation, transport between the hotel and the airport, as well as “Two telephone calls or internet-related costs to contact people outside the airport”
Check Online or Ask Customer Service
No matter what your delay, while you’re waiting, it’s worthwhile searching the airline’s policies. Sometimes those policies are buried deep within their site, so search a variety of terms, like: ‘canceled flights’ or ‘compensation’ or ‘ travel vouchers ’ or ‘delays’ or ‘expenses’.
As well, ask for compensation information at the airline customer service desk. Simply by asking, you are likely to receive. And if you don’t receive, all they can do is say ‘no’.
Even if you forgot to ask for compensation while in transit, you could still receive expense reimbursement post-flight. Use this site, AirHelp.com. Enter your flight information to analyze your delay statistics. It can offer results right away as to whether you’re eligible for a voucher. It may even find you’re eligible for more than you anticipated!
Definitely, it’s worth digging through the website or app or asking customer service for travel voucher eligibility. Who knows what you could turn up? It might be well worth your search time.