Q. My son was recently delayed for three hours on a domestic trip due to a maintenance issue. They sat on the plane for two hours before being moved to another plane and were delayed further. The delay caused him to arrive at 12:18 a.m. and caused significant hassle for our family in trying to retrieve him from the airport over an hour away from our home. (I received 11 email messages from the airline, each extending the delay.) The airline did not provide food or beverages for the passengers. I called and asked the airline to put him up in the hotel across the street from our home airport so that I could get him the next morning since we had logistical issues with driving at that time of the night. They refused. The airline's contract of carriage states that they will provide accommodations if the delay pushes the arrival to the next day (it did). Also, I had selected that flight instead of a cheaper one so that the timing of pick-up would work for my family. Instead, their failure cost me an entire night of sleep, my son an extra three hours on a plane and a major headache due to not eating for eight hours, as well as the extra cost of the more convenient flight I didn't receive benefit for. I have yet to hear from the airline. How can they get away with this?
A. They can get away with this because, despite new and more stringent D.O.T. regulations, the airlines seem to be a protected industry that doesn't play by the same rules that other consumer segments do.
And although I hate to say it, while I sympathize with you, your tale of woe pales in comparison with many of the ones I read on a daily basis. I wholly agree that if you paid for a more expensive flight arriving at a more convenient time, and instead ended up with what amounts to an "inferior product"—especially since this was due to a mechanical problem that was arguably within the airline's control—then you should be compensated. But there are no government regulations dealing with this kind of scenario. I would complain to the U.S. D.O.T. here and harass your airline's customer service department until you at least get a voucher good for a future flight.