3. Fool-proofing Your Itinerary
Many credit cards with annual fees come with trip delay coverage — reimbursement for hotel rooms, meals and misplaced bags — that people often don’t realize they have.
If your flight is delayed a certain number of hours, or overnight, the issuers of these cards will provide several hundred dollars in expenses (for things like lodging and toiletries) for each purchased ticket. Such cards typically pay you for lost baggage as well.
Airlines will rarely put you up in a hotel room, and even if they do, Mr. Leff said, “I don’t want to stay in the hotels they’re offering.” He goes online and books himself a hotel room instead, then sends the receipt, along with receipts for meals, taxis or ride-sharing, to his credit card company.
A number of things are excluded from coverage, though, so read the fine print. In order to be reimbursed, you typically have to provide proof of your delay, along with receipts for related expenses. The process isn’t always smooth. In some ways, it’s “no different than dealing with the cable company,” said Mr. Leff.
When delayed at the airport, he tries to look up flight alternatives himself because the agent at the gate or on the phone may suggest only itineraries that the average traveler would want. Sometimes, Mr. Leff said, when a phone agent says “We have nothing available,” what he or she really means is “nothing a sane person would want is available.”
As a rule of thumb, if he doesn’t get the answer he’s looking for, his maxim is “Hang up; call back.” He says it’s the frequent flier’s version of “If Mom says no, ask Dad.” You can also talk to an agent at the gate, at a check-in counter, at a kiosk, or in a lounge.