Expert Tip 3: Always ask why the flight was delayed

Flights get late. Be it due to weather delays, Air Traffic congestion or Aircraft Technical issues. Whenever you are on a flight that is late, ask why it was late. If the delay was caused due to a fault of the airline’s – such as Mechanical Issues, crew getting stuck in traffic, jammed cockpit door (that has actually happened to a flight I was on), the airline will compensate you, but only if you ask them to. You need to ask for the cause of the delay as there is no compensation for delays caused by reasons beyond the airline’s control – weather, air traffic, airport runway repairs, etc. The compensation you get will depend upon the length of time your flight was delayed by and your Elite Status. You do have to ask for the compensation. Call your airline after the fact and ask. Do not ask at the gate. The Gate Agents cannot help you. Your mileage may vary (YMMV) as to how much compensation you get, but if you don’t ask for it, you will certainly not get it. Compensation is typically in the form of miles or a voucher.

Read more about Weather Delays and your Elite Status in my earlier post.

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  1. I totally Agree. I got delayed in Singapore due to United Airlines. They has issue with small part which had to be flown in from Japan. Gate agents wouldn’t comply to comp. Local united office wouldn’t either. After 2-3 emails to Mileage plus ( I am United Plat) I was sent 250$ for my trouble. Which is good considering my company tool care of hotel etc.

    BTW are the gate agents truthful about letting you know the real reasons?


  2. Aditya, Thanks for sharing. Gate agents are usually truthful. They have no reason to lie. The problem is that they may not know.

  3. Great advice. As a UA 1K I asked at the gate and when I learned it was mechanical, I asked for compensation. Although refused at first because the gate agent said I did not spend the night in the airport, I mentioned my status and that I have been compensated in the past with miles or a voucher due to mechanical delays. She then looked up my info and awarded me a $200 voucher. It probably helped that I asked her when she waas not busy and at a gate just chatting with two other agents waiting for the flight to arrive.

  4. Any suggestions on what, specifically, to write in email? When I’ve written in the past about an evening flight in which I had no overhead lamp, the reply was pretty much “oops, these things happen.” So I’m obviously doing something wrong.

  5. I know the airlines are required to compensate you for involuntary bump but what about in this case (delay)? Are the airlines required to give you compensation or are they being “nice”? I have no status on any airline (except Southwest… ahem….).

  6. Karlyn, I would call, not email. I have almost 100% success in getting compensated when it was the airlines fault, for delays and cancellations.

  7. I don’t think this is mandatory. All upto the airlines to act (or not),in the name of customer service.

  8. Do you think it is too late to try this if my delayed flight was back in May 2011? My flight was delayed for 2.5 hours due to electrical issues on the plane and I ended up missing my cruise ship by 20 minutes because of it.

  9. Lots of misinformtion here:

    >if you don’t ask for it, you will certainly not get it.

    United sends out emails automatically in many cases.

    > The Gate Agents cannot help you.

    Also not true. Some gate agents are empowered to issue compensation. Depends on the airline.

  10. Art,

    No harm in asking. I do not know if there is a ‘statue of limitation’ on asking for compensation.

  11. I just called for my delay a week ago and everyeone I spoke to on the phone is telling me to email.

  12. Hi, I was travelling on a United Airways flight from Dublin to Washington and then had a connecting flight to Houston 2.5hrs later. The flight from Dublin was delayed in excess of 3 hours due to an engine fault (they had to make an emergency landing) and returned to the airport where they had us disembark and gave us snack boxes. However as it was delayed over 3 hours am I entitled to compensation and how should I approach this? The last time I flew UA they lost my bag and it turned up 3 weeks later and I never got any comp so I’m obviously not very good at it… Any guidance would be very much appreciated.


  13. Hi, yesterday had a flight from grand rapids Michigan to Cleveland Ohio to connect to Manchester NH by 1:40 pm. Flight delayed 1.5 hrs from GRR to Cleveland then missed connector to Manchester, NH. Stuck in Ohio for 7 hrs till 7pm flight back to NH and missed my 3-11 work shift. Is there any compensation that I am allowed beside my 10.00 food voucher?? thanks

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