Passengers slept on the floor of JFK when the airline didn't put them up during an 18-hour delay — but your credit card can keep that from happening to you

REUTERS/Jana Asenbrennerova
  • A recent Delta flight from New York to Los Angeles was delayed by more than 18 hours, due to weather conditions and mechanical issues, among other reasons.
  • Passengers reported that the airline didn’t offer hotel rooms, even though the flight was delayed overnight and passengers ended up sleeping in the airport.
  • Flight delays can be inevitable, but you don’t have to spend the night on the terminal floor. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the United Explorer Card, and other credit cards offer travel coverage that can reimburse you for expenses like a hotel when your trip is significantly delayed.
  • To get coverage, you generally need to pay with the rewards card in question, and you will only be covered once the trip is delayed by a set number hours (usually six to 12, or if it’s an overnight delay).
  • If you’ve already booked a trip with a credit card that doesn’t offer travel delay protection, consider purchasing travel insurance from a company like VisitorsCoverage so you’ll be reimbursed for a hotel room and other expenses.

A recent Delta flight from New York’s JFK airport to Los Angeles was delayed by more than 18 hours. It was a perfect storm, where just about everything that could go wrong did – there was a mechanical issue, then weather caused more delays, then pilots were required to time out after reaching their federally mandated maximum number of working hours.

The flight was originally slated to leave at 3:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but didn’t actually take off until the following morning at about 9:30 a.m.

Making matters worse, the airline reportedly didn’t offer passengers hotel rooms, so many spent the night sleeping on the terminal floor.

How to make things better if this happens to you

Travel delays are always an exercise in patience, but you can make things more bearable by choosing a credit card that will cover you for a hotel room and other necessary expenses in the event of a major delay.

The following credit cards are some of the best options that offer travel delay coverage. Note that you need to pay for your trip with the card in question to get reimbursed for expenses like a hotel room, and each credit card has its own terms and conditions, including a minimum delay requirement for getting coverage (usually six hours or more).

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Up to $US500 per ticket in coverage when your trip is delayed by at least 12 hours (or overnight)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Up to $US500 per ticket in coverage when your trip is delayed by at least six hours (or overnight)
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Up to $US500 per ticket in coverage when your trip is delayed by at least 12 hours (or overnight)
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card Up to $US500 per ticket in coverage when your trip is delayed by at least 12 hours (or overnight)
  • United Explorer Card Up to $US500 per ticket in coverage when your trip is delayed by at least 12 hours (or overnight)
  • Citi Prestige® Card Up to $US500 per ticket in coverage when your trip is delayed by at least six hours, but this benefit is going away on September 22, 2019.

In addition to covering you for reasonable purchases like a hotel room and meals when you have a flight delay, several of these travel credit cards offer bonus points on flights. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which has a $US95 annual fee, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on travel, including flights. So in addition to getting coverage, you can rack up rewards for your flight purchase.

Just remember that when it comes to using credit cards, the key is to pay off your balance in full and treat them like debit cards. That way, you’ll avoid accumulating debt and steer clear of high interest rates.

Travel insurance is also an option

If you’ve already bought a flight with a credit card that doesn’t offer any type of trip delay protection, you can still purchase a travel insurance plan. Brands like VisitorsCoverage offer plans that include flight insurance, so you’ll be covered if you face significant delays.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred from our partner The Points Guy.

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