The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose
The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Missed Connections Mean Additional Expenses
Missed connections can quickly turn an ordinary delay into a logistical and financial nightmare. When you miss a connecting flight due to a delay or cancellation of the initial leg, you are suddenly scrambling to get to your final destination. This almost always involves additional expenses that add up fast.
Let's walk through a typical scenario. Your flight from Chicago to Denver is delayed, causing you to miss your connection from Denver to Seattle. The airline may rebook you on the next flight to Seattle, but that could be many hours later. Even if you are placed on the next flight out, you will likely have a long unexpected layover in Denver in the meantime.
During that layover, you will need to pay for meals and snacks at the airport. In some cases, airlines will provide meal vouchers, but there are limits on number and value. Plus airport food is notoriously expensive. One average meal at an airport can easily cost $15-25. If you have a long wait, you could rack up $75 or more in unexpected dining charges.
You may also need to get a hotel room for the night if your new itinerary involves an overnight layover. Airport hotels are very pricey, often $200-300 per night. Now your airline delay is costing serious money. Don't forget about ground transportation too. You'll need a taxi or rideshare to and from hotels, at an additional cost of $50 or more roundtrip.
Checked baggage that misses connections is another massive hassle. The airline will deliver your bags eventually, but it could take 24 hours or more. Now you are stuck without your luggage, paying for toiletries and clothing items. Delays of this length often qualify for reimbursement from the airline, but the process is lengthy. You are still out of pocket until the claim is processed.
What else is in this post?
- The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Missed Connections Mean Additional Expenses
- The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Hotels, Meals, and Other Incidentals Add Up Quickly
- The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Baggage Fees Are Doubled When You Miss Your Next Flight
- The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Rebooking on the Next Available Flight Costs Big
The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Hotels, Meals, and Other Incidentals Add Up Quickly
When a flight delay leads to a missed connection, the extra costs from hotels, meals, and incidentals can shock unprepared travelers. These expenses add up lightning fast, burning through your vacation budget. Savvy travelers plan ahead to mitigate the damage of delays.
Let's break it down item by item. Hotel costs are one of the largest unexpected expenses. If you are stuck overnight at an unexpected layover city, airport hotels jack up their rates knowing desperate travelers have limited options. Expect to pay $200-300 for an average airport hotel room. In pricey destinations like New York City, a basic room can run $400-500.
Meals and snacks also hit hard. A single restaurant meal with an appetizer, entree and drink will run $20-40 per person at an airport. Even grabbing a quick fast food meal will cost $10-15. If you have lengthy delays, expect to spend $50-100 per person on food. And that's not counting the grossly overpriced snacks from the newsstands and gift shops.
Then you have surprise transportation costs. You'll need to get to and from the hotel, which could be $60 roundtrip or more in each direction if using a taxi or rideshare service. Even the hotel shuttle may charge $10-20 per person each way. Moving about the airport usually requires taking trains or trams, adding a couple dollars per trip.
Checked bags that miss connections create more headaches. If your bags don't make it, you'll need to buy essential toiletries and clothing items. Travel sized toiletries at airport shops are very expensive. Outfitting yourself in fresh clothes for the trip can cost hundreds without your luggage. Delays over 12 hours allow you to claim reimbursement from the airline, but don't expect quick resolution.
Parking costs multiply too. If your return home is pushed back, you rack up extra days in the airport garage or lot. At $20 per day, a few days of parking can equal a nice meal out. Don't forget about pet boarding fees either. Kennels charge by the day, so delays leaving town cost you even more.
The little incidentals add insult to injury. WiFi access, charging cables, neck pillows - you name it. Airport shops prey on desperate travelers needing items for the wait. And the minibar and room service in your hotel room also drive up the tab substantially. Before you know it, these extras have set you back $100 or more.
The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Baggage Fees Are Doubled When You Miss Your Next Flight
Missed connections can turn a minor delay into a major financial setback when it comes to checked baggage. Most airlines impose heavy fees for the first checked bag, currently $30-40 on most domestic U.S. flights. International flights and additional checked bags have even higher fees, from $50-200 each way.
When your checked bags miss a connection due to a delay or cancellation, you must pay those baggage fees again on the next flight. For a single checked bag, you are out another $30-40. For multiple checked bags, it quickly becomes a massive added cost.
Let's look at a real life example from Torsten's own experience. On a United Airlines flight from Honolulu to Newark that connected in San Francisco, the first leg was delayed by 2 hours due to a mechanical issue. This caused Torsten and his family to miss their connection to Newark. With 4 checked bags between them, they had originally paid $160 in checked baggage fees.
However, because the airline had to rebook them through Chicago on a later flight that same day, they had to repay the $160 baggage fees on the new itinerary. So a single delay ended up costing $320 extra dollars solely from doubling the baggage fees.
This problem is compounded on international flights with multiple connections. For instance, a flight from Nairobi to Los Angeles via Amsterdam and NYC with 2 checked bags could incur $400 in checked luggage fees. If a delay caused you to miss the NYC to LA leg, you'd have to repay the $400 again to send your bags on the later flight. One missed connection just cost you an additional $800 purely in checked baggage fees.
The worst part is that airlines will refund the original baggage fees from the missed flight, but only after a lengthy claims process. In the meantime, you have to pay the fees again at check-in on the new flight or lose your luggage. The reimbursement check can take weeks or months to arrive, meaning you are out a significant amount of cash in the short term.
Savvy travelers hedge against this by packing essential medications, valuables, and 1-2 days of clothing in their carry-on bags. This avoids having to repurchase critical items if bags get delayed. You can also insure valuable luggage for a premium, which covers replacement costs for lost or delayed bags. But there's no getting around repaying those hefty baggage fees at check-in on new flights.
The High Cost of Flight Delays: How Much Money You Can Expect to Lose - Rebooking on the Next Available Flight Costs Big
When flight delays or cancellations cause you to miss your connection, rebooking on the next available flight often comes with a hefty price tag. While the airline will typically place you on the next flight to your final destination free of charge, this flight is seldom at a convenient departure time or on your preferred carrier. The options presented by the airline for rebooking are often very limited and expensive.
As Torsten experienced on a flight from Honolulu through San Francisco, the next available flight with open seats could depart 8-12 hours later, even though other airlines may have earlier nonstop flights. However, the airline will only rebook you on their own operated flights or those of partner airlines within the same alliance. These flights are prioritized for rebooking over flights on competing airlines, even if those flights would get you there sooner.
You can certainly request to be booked on an earlier flight on a different airline, but you will have to pay the fare difference out of pocket. And any alternate flight is likely to be extremely expensive last minute. Same day flights in the U.S. often go for $800-1200 for economy and $2000+ for first/business class when booked day-of. International flights can be $2000+ in coach or upwards of $10,000 for premium seats when booked last minute after a delay.
Other travelers report similar experiences paying exorbitant amounts to rebook sooner, rather than waiting for the next flight on the original airline. One woman paid $1500 to fly American Airlines from Phoenix to Charlotte same day, instead of waiting 15 hours for the next Delta flight after her cancelation. A man flying from Milan to New York on Alitalia paid $3800 to rebook on that day's Delta flight after missing his connection due to a delay.
These real world examples hammer home just how costly rebooking can become when you want to get to your destination faster than what the original airline can provide. With same day flights running into the thousands of dollars, a reasonable 4-8 hour delay can end up costing substantial sums if you need to arrive on time. Even flights with open economy seats often run $750 or more for next day domestic and $2000+ for international.