My flight back to Dallas from Mexico City was delayed. It was the last flight out for the night. I would have to find a place to stay for the evening.
When this happens, the airport hotels fill up quickly as an entire plane load of people are all looking for a hotel room. And when this happens, there are probably other flights that get cancelled as well for the same reason.
Lesson One: Buy travel insurance
When an airline flight is delayed due to weather, it is not the airline’s responsibility to reimburse you the extra costs you incur. That’s what travel insurance is for. Lesson One: Buy it! It’s cheap and can usually be purchased when making your flight reservation or you can buy an annual policy if you travel a lot. When a flight is delayed for reasons within the control of the airline, the company should issue you vouchers for hotels or put you up and also pay for meals until the next flight.
Originally, the airline gave a weather reason for the cancellation, so no hotel vouchers were being given out. I rushed to find a room using my cellphone. Booking.com popped up first on a Google search to secure a reasonably priced airport hotel for the night. Shortly after that, the airline started giving vouchers for hotel rooms because the crew had “timed out.” This happens when the crew has worked the maximum number of hours that they are allowed to work in a 24-hour period under regulations. Since there was no crew even if there had been another flight that night, the airline rightfully took on the responsibility.
But, I was unable to get the benefit of the hotel voucher because I had already booked a room. So, I would have to save my hotel receipt and submit a travel insurance claim. As it turned out, the airline secured rooms in the same Mexican brand-name hotel that I had.
Lesson Two: Online booking services do not come with consumer help
The hotel turned out to be nothing short of terrible. A drilling noise kept reoccurring throughout the night, making sleep difficult. I asked the hotel to refund my room, but the hotel explained that I used an agent to book, so the hotel cannot refund money. I called the online service and learned Lesson Two: Booking.com and other online services contract out their last-minute hotel bookings with fine print that apparently says these services come without any customer service, and that’s according to customer service! So, if you use a booking service and have a problem, you’re on your own.
Lesson Three: Complain early
I had struggled to sleep for most of the night, so by the time I complained, it was within an hour of when I had to awake to catch my re-booked flight. The hotel offered to change the room but given the short time, it wasn’t worth doing. Lesson Three: Complain early about problems with your room.
At the gate for the flight, I learned other passengers had the same noise problem with their room, so this was probably a known issue at the hotel.
Lesson Four: Book directly if possible
Before I headed to my flight, I sat down to discuss the situation with the night manager, a low-level employee but the highest-ranking employee on duty early in the morning. If you ever have a problem, the manager explained that 40 percent of the hotel bookings are through online booking services. The manager explained that had I booked directly he would have refunded up to 50 percent of the price. So, Lesson Four: Book directly whenever possible.
Eventually, the manager placated me by offering a free upgrade on my next visit. I had already decided I would never stay at this hotel again. But, with a free upgrade, I may give it another try…someday.
If you want the hotel name, drop me a note.